The molecular mechanisms underlying epithelial cell plasticity

Year of award: 2016


  • Dr Kyra Campbell

    University of Sheffield

Project summary

In many cancers, cells acquire abnormal motile behaviours 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 dysregulated manner. These processes are called the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and the reverse process is mesenchymal-epithelial-transition (MET). They enable cells to reversibly switch between stationary and migratory cell states. The molecular mechanisms orchestrating both processes remain poorly understood.

I will use a model organism, the fruit fly drosophila melanogaster, to study the basic biology of these processes during normal development. Long recognised as a valuable model for basic research, the fruit fly is now emerging as a powerful tool to investigate malignancy and identify possible new therapies. I will use genetic tools and systems biology approaches to identify the molecular mechanisms underlying EMT and MET and microscopy to follow the behaviour of cells undergoing these processes in real time.

My goal is to determine the molecular machinery driving the processes of EMT and MET and consequently identify novel targets that will aid the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of metastatic cancer.