dr. Sander Lefere (MD)

CRIG member
Sander Lefere

Junior assistant - Internal Medicine (UZ Gent)
Doctoral fellow - Hepatology Research Unit , Dept. of Hepatology & Gastroenterology, Internal Medicine (Fac. Medicine and Health Science, UGent)
Principal investigator: prof. Hans Van Vlierberghe (MD, PhD)

Research focus

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become the most common chronic liver disease worldwide, due to the obesity pandemic. It can progress to liver inflammation (steatohepatitis), fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). HCC can, in contrast to other chronic liver diseases, even develop in NAFLD patients without liver cirrhosis.

Liver hypoxia develops as hepatic fat accumulates, leading to a disruption of hepatic metabolism and inflammation, in part via activation of the hypoxia signaling pathway. Pathological neo-angiogenesis develops in reaction to tissue hypoxia, yet these new vessels are leaky and promote the infiltration of immune cells. Angiogenesis is involved in NASH progression, and HCC is also characterized by structurally and functionally abnormal blood vessels.

Our research topics include unraveling the contribution of hypoxia and angiogenesis to HCC initiation and growth, specifically on a steatotic background, and investigating potential anti-angiogenic therapies by using in vitro and in vivo models as well as human samples.

Key publications

  • Hypoxia-regulated mechanisms in the pathogenesis of obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 2016. (PMID: 27091156)


University Hospital Ghent, Hepatology Research Unit, Corneel Heymanslaan 10, Building B, second floor, 9000 Ghent