Never underestimate the fruit fly. In a recent lecture sponsored by Bowdoin’s biology department, visiting speaker Dr. Michele Markstein explained how Drosophila is revealing surprising insights into the science and treatment of cancer.
Markstein, whose talk was introduced by her former colleague from Harvard Medical School (and fellow fruit fly researcher) Jack Bateman, has established a team of researchers at UMass Amherst to research cancer therapeutics using Drosophila stem cells. Intestinal stem cells of fruit flies are uncannily similar to those of the human intestine and other mammalian intestines, she said. Taking advantage of these tissue similarities, she examines the side effects of anti-cancer drugs in both ill and healthy individuals.
Markstein’s talk featured her new findings that FDA-approved anti-cancer drugs can simultaneously reduce the proliferation of tumor cells and increase cell divisions in other parts of the same animal. Her research, which underscores the importance of exploring unintended consequences of drug treatments, is helping to pave the way toward more effective therapeutic methods in the future.