Our research group focuses on the analysis of pathways that underlie the genesis, progression and maintenance of cancer. The goal is to understand how the genes that are implicated in cancer control fundamental cellular processes in normal cells. At the same time, we wish to understand the mechanisms by which mutations interfere with these natural processes to bring about tumour development and to affect therapy outcome. We harness the power of mouse genetics, complemented by primary cell culture models, in order to study cancer gene function in vivo. Our emphasis on the use of genetics is motivated by the need to explore tumorigenesis in vivo, in the context of the whole organism. Ultimately, we take advantage of our genetic studies to identify new putative targets for cancer therapy and to develop preclinical mouse models of human cancers.
Our laboratory has recently developed a growing interest in melanoma initiation, progression, metastasis and therapy. Several mouse models of melanoma were introduced into the lab. They are currently being extensively characterized and improved. In an ongoing effort, we also collect, catalogue and profile tumour material from these mice as well as from human samples which we obtain through collaborations with clinicians at the KU Leuven university hospital. Several melanoma projects are ongoing in our laboratory; these are aimed for instance at dissecting the role of non-coding RNAs in melanoma progression/maintenance and phenotype switching, identifying the cell(s) of origin through lineage tracing approaches and deciphering the mechanisms underlying melanoma intra-tumor heterogeneity and therapy resistance.