Dieter Tulkens

CRIG member

Doctoral fellow - Department of Biomedical molecular biology – VIB-UGent
Principal investigator: prof. Kris Vleminckx (PhD)


Research focus

In order to develop novel targeted therapies, it is important to improve the current pipelines for identification and validation of cancer vulnerabilities and dependencies. However, studies have indicated major differences of a particular cancer entity in vitro vs in vivo upon othotopic transplantation. Hence dependencies and vulnerabilities should preferentially be analyzed in an in vivo context. Our model is well positioned between cell culture studies and mouse cancer models. In X. tropicalis, with its external development and availability of numerous large eggs, genome editing approaches are extremely simple and very cheap compared to the mice. Also, its unique diploid genome with great synteny to the human genome is a particular important feature, which is very favorable compared to the zebrafish, for which more than 25 % of the genes are duplicated!

The platform for cancer modeling and (epigenetic) dependency factor identification in Xenopus will have application potential and economic potential in several ways:
Epigenetic regulators are drawing major attention of drug companies because, in contrast to for instance transcription factors, they can be considered druggable. In fact, several new drugs targeting the epigenome are being tested and some have already been approved by the FDA and EMA. The current project is focusing on a relatively rare cancer entity, namely T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is a driven by the extensive expertise and access to clinical data that is present in the lab of the co-supervisor prof. Pieter Van Vlierberghe. However, our findings can likely be extrapolated to other cancers since epigenetic regulators are associated with additional hematologic malignancies as well as with solid tumors. 

There is an absolute need for more pre-clinical models that are easily accessible for “a la carte” genetic tailoring. The genetic cancer models generated in this project, can serve as a paradigm for modeling other cancer types in Xenopus tropicalis.

Contact & links

  • Department of Biomedical molecular biology, VIB-UGent, Technologiepark Zwijnaarde 927, 9000 Gent, Belgium
  • Irc Ugent
  • Dieter Tulkens is interested to receive invitations for presentations or talks