Department of Biomedical Science projects

Intercalated BSc Medical Sciences Research available projects

Biomedical Science anatomy image


How does diet effect colorectal cancer progression?

Main Supervisor

Dr Kyra Campbell (

Second Supervisor

Dr Mirre Simons (

Aim and Objectives

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is among the top four UK cancers in terms of mortality and is greatly affected by diet. However, how and what specific components of the diet affect cancer has remained elusive. Both dietary interventions and targeting of pathways downstream present promising new treatment avenues for CRC. Yet, only if the precise components of the diet, and its actions are known, can such interventions be translated.

While flies have emerged as a powerful tool to investigate tumour growth and identify cancer related pathways, to-date studies have been limited by a lack of metastatic models where cells can be followed from primary tumour development to metastases formation in adult organisms. We recently overcame this longstanding limitation, developing the first model for the induction of macrometastases in adult Drosophila melanogaster (Drosophila). Our most recent Bsc in Medical Sciences Research student used both our benign and metastatic Drosophila models for colorectal cancer to investigate the effects of different diets on cancer progression. Really excitingly, she found that cancer cells behaved more aggressive and invasively in flies fed on a high protein diet. For this project, we would like the student to build on this preliminary data, to identify what other components of the diet can affect cancer progression, and investigate at the cellular level how different diets effect cancer cell behaviour.

Research Methodology

This project will combine molecular biology with powerful Drosophila genetics, quantitative image analysis, luciferase assays and cutting-edge high-resolution microscopy on our own dedicated multiphoton confocal. It will also involve generating the benign and metastatic colorectal cancer models, screening the flies for tumour growth, and analysing the effects of different diets at the subcellular level in fixed and living samples. This is a unique opportunity for you to carry out state-of-the-art microscopy, and develop your skills in an exciting multidisciplinary environment.

Expected Outcome

We expect key deliverables of this project to include: identification of dietary components that either have a beneficial or detrimental affect on colorectal cancer progression; an understanding at the cellular level how these diets are affecting cancer cell behaviour (increased or decreased proliferation, apoptosis, de-differentiation, invasion or migration?)

Type of Project

Lab/Bench Project - primarily working in a lab environment

Additional Training

We will offer the student in-depth training in imaging cells and tissues in both fixed and real-time at both the sub-cellular and tissue level, as well as quantitative image analysis. This is a unique opportunity due to the fact that the lab has their own dedicated multi-photon confocal, especially suited to deep-tissue imaging. We will also teach the student to perform high throughput luciferase assays on lysates and to analyse the results. We will also provide additional training in genetics, embryology, molecular biology and also in the use of Drosophila as a model for cancer.

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