Close up of researcher working with samples in a lab

Research projects

Using fruit flies to understand how brain cancer can hijack our blood vessels

Professor Chrysoula Pitsouli
Project period
Jul 2024 - Jun 2027
Research Institute
University of Cyprus
Cancer types
Brain cancer
Award amount

Project aim

Professor Pitsouli and her team are researching the methods that glioblastoma uses to ‘hijack’ blood vessels to benefit the cancer itself. They will use fruit flies to uncover the mechanisms behind this process.

Hope for the future

Glioblastoma is the most common cancerous brain tumour in adults. The average survival time for patients with glioblastoma is sadly just 12-18 months. As with other brain cancers, we still do not know how brain tumours develop.

Glioblastoma can ‘hijack’ blood vessels to get access to oxygen and nutrients diverting them from healthy cells and allowing tumours to grow faster. Professor Chrysoula Pitsouli is using fruit flies to study the basic mechanisms of this ‘hijacking’ process. She hopes that this project will identify key genes involved and provide insights into glioblastoma that could lead to the development of new cancer therapeutics in the future.

Professor Pitsouli from waist up standing in her institute and smiling

Meet the scientist

Chrysoula, and her researcher husband, are kept quite busy raising a couple of twins. She hits the gym three times a week to keep fit and sane. She enjoys reading, spending time with family and friends, as well as cooking (and eating) Greek food. Her favourite dishes include rice-stuffed vegetables and vine leaves (“dolmades”) and moussaka. 

The science

For glioblastoma to grow and spread to other organs, it needs oxygen. Professor Chrysoula Pitsouli and her team are trying to understand how glial cells in glioblastoma can ‘hijack’ blood vessels and promote the growth of new blood vessels around them, to get access to oxygen. It is almost like rearranging the furniture in someone’s living room to suit your own needs rather than your hosts.

Professor Pitsouli is using a fruit fly model to better understand the basic mechanism of ‘hijacking’ in glioblastoma. Fruit flies are often used for genetic studies as their genetic material is 16 times smaller than the genome of humans or other mammals, which makes it quicker and easier to study. Whilst fruit flies do not have blood vessels, they do have an elaborate network of oxygen-transporting tubes which work in a similar way. This project aims to understand the remodelling process of these oxygen-transporting tubes during the development of cancer. Because of this unique model, they can study the growth of the cancer cells and oxygen-transporting vessels through time and look at the genetic profile of the cancer.

Most fruit fly genes have an equivalent in humans, so any findings may provide valuable insights to glioblastoma progression in humans. She hopes that this research will pinpoint genes that are essential in this hijacking process that could be potential targets for therapeutic drugs in future, providing much needed treatment for this aggressive disease.

Professor Pitsouli from waist up standing in her institute and smiling Professor Chrysoula Pitsouli
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