Laboratory for Molecular Cancer Biology
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 non-mutational (i.e. epigenetic and post-transcriptional) events interfere with these natural processes to bring about tumour development and to affect therapy outcome. We are particularly interested in the concept of aberrant RNA biology in cancer and the targeting of cancer cell-specific malignant RNAs.
We harness the power of mouse genetics and patient-derived xenograft (PDX) as preclinical models, in order to study cancer gene function in the in vivo relevant context and test novel (combination) therapeutic modalities.
Our research efforts follow from our studies on the p53 tumour suppressor. For more than a decade our laboratory has been studying upstream and downstream factors that influence or modulate p53-induced biological responses. Our laboratory has recently switched from a molecule- to a disease-driven approach and developed a growing interest in melanoma biology. 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 -down to single-cell level- tumour materials from these mice as well as from human biopsies which we obtain through collaborations with clinicians at the KU Leuven university hospital.
Our work is currently centered on 4 related axes:
- Characterization of the melanocytic lineage and melanocyte stem cells
- identification of melanoma initiating cells and dissection of the mechanisms that contribute to early tumor development
- inter- and intra-tumor heterogeneity
- metastatic spreading and tumor resistance.
The work of Chris Marine is supported by: