The duality of caspases in cancer, as told through the fly

Caitlin Hounsell, Yun Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

94 Downloads (Pure)


Caspases, a family of cysteine-aspartic proteases, have an established role as critical components in the activation and initiation of apoptosis. Alongside this a variety of non-apoptotic caspase functions in proliferation, differentiation, cellular plasticity and cell migration have been reported. The activity level and context are important factors in determining caspase function. As a consequence of their critical role in apoptosis and beyond, caspases are uniquely situated to have pathological roles, including in cancer. Altered caspase function is a common trait in a variety of cancers, with apoptotic evasion defined as a “hallmark of cancer”. However, the role that caspases play in cancer is much more complex, acting both to prevent and to promote tumourigenesis. This review focuses on the major findings in Drosophila on the dual role of caspases in tumourigenesis. This has major implications for cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, with the activation of apoptosis being the end goal. However, such treatments may inadvertently have adverse effects on promoting tumour progression and acerbating the cancer. A comprehensive understanding of the dual role of caspases will aid in the development of successful cancer therapeutic approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8927
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Medicine
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: The APC was funded by the UKRI open access block grant issued to the University of Birmingham.

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: We apologise to our colleagues for omitting many relevant publications owing to space limitations. This work has been supported by grant BB/S015701/1 from the UKRI BBSRC. CH is a student supported by the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP) programme.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • caspase
  • cancer
  • tumourigenesis
  • Drosophila
  • apoptosis
  • non-apoptotic function


Dive into the research topics of 'The duality of caspases in cancer, as told through the fly'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this