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Investigating the interactions between diet, obesity and cancer

   MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (LMS)

About the Project

Cancer is a systemic disease that associates with a range of host metabolic changes such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cachexia/organ wasting syndrome, each of which alters the host systemic metabolic and nutritional environment. Cancer cells actively acquire nutrients from the extracellular space to support their growth, but how cancer cells sense and respond to changes in systemic nutrient availability remains an under-explored area in cancer biology. This is in part due to the complex interactions between cancer cells and their host tissues, which can only be studied in a whole-animal setting.

We leverage the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model system to explore host-tumour metabolic/nutritional interactions. Our Drosophila study has started to unravel novel concepts and mechanisms by which tumours sense and exploit extracellular nutrients in response to systemic metabolic changes associated with obesity and muscle wasting. By combining a fly model of diet-induced obesity and various fly models of cancer, the project will further investigate nutrient circuits that underlie host-tumour metabolic interactions.

Funding Notes

This funding covers tuition fees and also a stipend amounting to £21,000pa paid directly to the student, for 3.5 years in total.
Whilst there are no residency restriction for these studentships, there is more funding available for Home Fee students (including UK nationals and those with settled and pre-settled status until at least April 2026), which make the international studentships highly competitive


Newton N, Wang Y-F, Camplese L, Mokochinski JB, Kramer HB, Brown AEX, Fets L and Hirabayashi S. (2020). Systemic muscle wasting and coordinated tumour response drive tumourigenesis. Nature Communications. 11, 4653.
Hirabayashi S. (2016). The interplay between obesity and cancer: a fly view. Dis Model Mech. 9, 917-926.
Hirabayashi S and Cagan RL. (2015). Salt-inducible kinases mediate nutrient-sensing to link dietary sugar and tumorigenesis in Drosophila. eLife. 17, e08501.
Hirabayashi S, Baranski TJ & Cagan RL. (2013). Transformed Drosophila cells evade diet-mediated insulin resistance through wingless signaling. Cell. 154, 664-675.

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