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Tumor-Host Biology

We study the cellular mechanisms of how epithelial tumors develop and interact with the organism to cause cancer.

We combine the use of human cells in culture and the animal model, Drosophila melanogaster, to pursue two broad questions.

  • What cellular processes underlie the deconstruction of epithelia and cellular transformation in response to mutations in proto-oncogenes or tumor suppressors?
  • How does tumor cells interact with and impact the organism?

Tumor cells depend on the organism (patient) for its growth and reciprocally have widespread impact on physiology and survival.

We seek to mechanistically decipher these interactions with microenvironmental cells and somatic tissues. 

Long-term goals

Our long-term goal is to identify mechanisms of tumor-host interaction required to support tumor growth and cause somatic effects (cancer cachexia).

This may form the basis for translational studies.


  • Mechanisms of Receptor Tyrosine Kinase-induced malignant epithelial transformation. We explore the mechanisms of RTK-induced epithelial deconstruction in flies and human cells.
  • Autophagy and tumor growth. Using flies and human cells, we pursue the regulation and function of autophagy in cancer models.
  • Tumor-microenvironment interaction. Exploring the communication between tumor and host cells of the microenvironment using a combination of forward genetics and hypothesis-based approaches.
  • Mechanisms of cancer cachexia. We aim at understanding the communication between tumor and host physiology and somatic organs using a combination of explorative (genetic screens) and hypothesis-based approaches.


  • Andreas Brech, Institute of Cancer Research, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital, Norway
  • Heinrich Jasper, Buck Institute of Aging, Novato, California, USA
  • Eyal Gottlieb, Beatson Institute, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
  • Harald Stenmark, Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Institute of Cancer Research, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital
  • Stein Kaasa, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Åslaug Helland, Department of Cancer Genetics,  Institute of Cancer Research, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital, Norway
  • Terje Johansen, Department of Medical Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tromsø, Norway
  • Anne Simonsen, Institute for Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Geir Bjørkøy, Department of Biomedical Laboratory Science, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Trondheim, Norway
  • Christos Samakovlis, University of Stockholm, Sweden

Selected publications

  • Microenvironmental autophagy promotes tumor growth. Katheder N.,  O´Farrell F., Khezri R., Schultz SW., Jain A., Johansen T., Juhasz G., Bilder D., Brech A., Stenmark H., Rusten TE.  Nature, 2017 (cf commentary in Dev. Cell, Cell metabolism and Science Signaling)
  • p62/Sequestosome-1, Autophagy-related Gene 8, and Autophagy in Drosophila Are Regulated by Nuclear Factor Erythroid 2-related Factor 2 (NRF2), Independent of Transcription Factor TFEB. Jain A, Rusten TE*, Katheder N, Elvenes J, Bruun JA, Sjøttem E, Lamark T, Johansen T*. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2015  *Co-corresponding author
  • Two-tiered control of epithelial growth and autophagy by the Insulin Receptor and the Ret-like Receptor, Stitcher. Ofarrell, F., Wang, S. Katheder, S. Rusten, TE*, Samakovlis, S*. PLoS Biology, 2013. *Co-last author
  • ESCRTs and Fab1 regulate distinct steps of autophagy. Rusten TE, Vaccari T, Lindmo K, Rodahl LM, Nezis IP, Sem-Jacobsen C, Wendler F, Vincent JP, Brech A, Bilder D, Stenmark H. Current  Biology. 2007
  • Fab1 phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate 5-kinase controls trafficking but not silencing of endocytosed receptors. Rusten TE, Rodahl LM, Pattni K, Englund C, Samakovlis C, Dove S, Brech A, Stenmark H. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 2006
  • Rusten TE, Lindmo K, Juhász G, Sass M, Seglen PO, Brech A, Stenmark H. Programmed autophagy in the Drosophila fat body is induced by ecdysone through regulation of the PI3K pathway. Developmental Cell. 2004  (cf commentary in  Nature, 431, 31-32 (2004)  and a comment in Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 5 (2004)


  • Microenvironment and tumors-a nurturing relationship. Katheder N, Rusten, TE.  Autophagy, 2017
  • Shaping development with ESCRTs. Rusten TE, Vaccari, T., Stenmark, H. Nature Cell Biology. 2011
  • p62, an autophagy hero or culprit? Rusten TE, Stenmark H. Nature Cell Biology. 2010
  • Developmental biology: moonlighting at the pole. Rusten TE, Stenmark H. Nature. 2007
Published Oct. 17, 2017 3:03 PM - Last modified Jan. 23, 2021 5:14 PM