A review of the methods used to induce cancer in invertebrates to study its effects on the evolution of species and ecosystem functioning

Authors: Antoine M. Dujon, Justine Boutry, Sophie Tissot, Jordan Meliani, Lena Guimard, Océane Rieu, Beata Ujvari, Frédéric Thomas

Source: Methods in Ecology and Evolution (Jul 2022)


Cancer is an understudied but important process in wildlife that is predicted to have a significant effect on the evolution of metazoan species due to negative effects on host fitness. However, gaining understanding of the impact of cancer on species and ecosystems is currently relatively slow as the development of both animal models in which cancer can be induced and experiments that can be performed in an ecological setting are required. Invertebrates, because they are widely available and relatively easy to manipulate, are promising animal models.

In this review we examine how tumours can be induced in invertebrates to use them as experimental models to study the effects of cancer on the ecology and evolution of species. We identified four main groups of invertebrates (planarian, bivalves, hydra and drosophila) in which such inductions are performed. We then reviewed the types and effectiveness of the methods employed to induce tumours in those groups.

Cancer alters the phenotype of the host. We review how experiments using invertebrate models can be used to investigate the impact of cancer on tumour-bearing individuals for their movement, reproduction, feeding behaviours, social interactions, holobiont and predation risk.

We provide recommendations to facilitate the development of new invertebrate models. We also highlight a series of key questions on the ecology and evolution of cancer that could be answered with the use of invertebrate models.