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

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Colleges, School and Institutes


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


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

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