Epithelial Cell Plasticity in Development and Disease
In many cancers cells acquire abnormal motility behaviour leading to metastasis, the main cause of cancer related deaths. It is now clear that processes normally driving the tightly controlled movement of cells during development, are reactivated in metastatic cancers in a non-regulated manner. These processes are called the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and the reverse mesenchymal-epithelial-transition (MET), and they enable cells to reversibly switch between stationary and migratory cell states. While many signals capable of inducing cells to undergo an EMT have been identified, about MET very little is known, and the molecular mechanisms orchestrating both processes remain poorly understood. We use the model organism of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to study the basic biology of these processes during normal development and also during tumour progression in exciting new Drosophila cancer models that we have recently generated.