dr. Elisabeth Brabants (PhD)

CRIG member

Postdoctoral researcher – Tumor Immunology Laboratory of the Department of Pulmonary Medicine
Principal investigator: Prof. Karim Vermaelen (MD, PhD)


Research focus

Our preclinical research investigates the interactions between lung cancer and the immune system, with a special focus on dendritic cells (DCs). DCs can function as sentinels and alert T-lymphocytes (the soldiers of our immune system) about the presence of danger in our body, including developing tumors.
We have uncovered a novel way by which lung tumors corrupts the function of DCs in order to escape immune control. This involves reprogramming of the DC’s micro-RNA repertoire. Micro-RNAs are small non-protein coding RNAs that can “veto” the translation of genes into proteins wihin a cell. Intriguingly, the micro-RNA signature of these “corrupt” DCs predicts a worse outcome in lung cancer patients. We think that interfering with the surge of “bad” micro-RNAs within DCs can provide a novel way to restore proper anti-tumor immunity.
We are also exploring the therapeutic potential of immunostimulatory DCs generated in vitro from patient blood. By loading these cells with mRNA prepared from the patient’s own tumor, a cellular vaccine is thus obtained. Our lab has performed the preclinical development of the first DC vaccine against lung cancer in this country. Clinical validation is now ongoing in collaboration with the Cell and Tissue bank of the hospital.

Key publications

  • ’An accelerated, clinical-grade protocol to generate high yields of type 1-polarizing messenger RNA loaded dendritic cells for cancer vaccination’. Cytotherapy, 2018. (PMID: 30122654)
  • ‘The transcriptome of lung tumor-infiltrating dendritic cells reveals a tumor-supporting phenotype and a microRNA signature with negative impact on clinical outcome. Oncoimmunology, 2016. (PMID: 28197369)

Contact & links

  • Lab address: Tumor Immunology Laboratory, MRB-II building UZ Ghent, Corneel Heymanslaan 10, 9000 Ghent
  • Elisabeth Barbants is interested to receive invitations for presentations or talks