Mattias Van Heetvelde

CRIG member
Mattias Van Heetvelde

Doctoral fellow - Lab for Cancer Genetics, Hereditary Breast Cancer, Center for Medical Genetics (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, UGent)
Principal investigator: prof. Kathleen Claes (PhD)

Research focus

Two genes are of great importance in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes, being presumed to be tumor suppressors, have to be inactivated on both alleles in order to contribute to carcinogenesis and this is presumed to be a rate-limiting step in hereditary breast cancer. Evidence was found however against this textbook example of Knudson's second hit hypothesis. There are BRCA1/BRCA2 associated breast cancers in which a functional allele can be detected. The research question behind my work is: Is loss of functional BRCA really unnecessary in hereditary breast cancer or are there unknown mechanisms at work in tumors that seems to retain the wild-type allele.

To address this question I use next generation sequencing to identify the genotype of both BRCA genes in a large cohort of BRCA-linked breast cancers and try to link this with miRNA expression profiles of those tumors. Functional work in MCF10A cells and Hela cells will determine if there are miRNAs silencing BRCA1 or BRCA2 in hereditary breast cancers, thereby masking the loss of functional protein on a genomic level.


  • Medical Research Building 1, groundfloor, Corneel Heymanslaan 10, 9000 Gent