female fly

A study led by the University College London has shown that cancer drugs such as Trametinib can delay the ageing process in adult fruit flies.

Trametinib is used to treat skin cancer and was chosen for its role in inhibiting Ras signalling as part of the ‘Ras-Erk-ETS’ cell pathway.

Published in Cell and funded by the Max Planck Society and Wellcome Trust, the UCL-led study found that trametinib treated fruit flies live 12% longer than average.

UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing Dr Nazif Alic, co-first author, said: “Our aim is to understand the mechanisms of ageing and alter the processes that lead to loss of function and to disease.”

As part of the study, female fruit flies were given a small dose of 1.56µM trametinib as an additive in their food.

The drug targets a specific cellular process that occurs in animals, including humans, delaying the onset of age-related deaths by slowing the ageing process.

“Death still seems to be inevitable, but we now have evidence to suggest it is possible to develop pharmacological treatments to keep us healthier for longer.”

The research found that the drug increased the fruit flies’ average life expectancy by 8% and the flies lived 12% longer on average with a higher dose of 15.6µM.

Furthermore, the study showed that a moderate dose of 15.6µM trametinib given to fruit flies over 30 days old still had an increased life expectancy of 4%.

UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing director and lead investigator professor Dame Linda Partridge said: “Death still seems to be inevitable, but we now have evidence to suggest it is possible to develop pharmacological treatments to keep us healthier for longer.

“Our next step is to investigate the effects of targeting the Erk-Ras-ETS pathway in more complex animals, such as mice, with a view to developing a drug regime that could be suitable for testing in humans.”

UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing Dr Cathy Slack, co-first author, added: “With support from pharma, we can refine these molecules over the next ten to 20 years to develop anti-ageing treatments, which don’t have the adverse effects of cancer drugs.”


Image: Adult fruit flies given a cancer drug have found to live 12% longer than average. Photo: © UCL 1999-2015.