To explore the link between sugar and cancer, scientists engineered fruit flies to activate the genes Ras and Src, which play a role in a variety of cancers in people. The genes were specifically activated in cells within the flies’ developing eye tissue, and these cells were labelled so that tumours would glow green when lit. Flies fed a normal diet grew small, benign tumours (left); those fed a high-sugar diet developed large, malignant tumours (right). Now the researchers, from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre and Mount Sinai Hospital, have identified exactly how this happens. In results published this week, they describe the mechanism that allows cancer cells to respond and grow rapidly when levels of sugar in the blood rise. This may help to explain why people with conditions involving chronically high sugar levels in their blood, such as obesity, also have an increased risk of developing certain cancers.
Written by Deborah Oakley
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