Anxhela Zaka

CRIG member
Anxhela Zaka

PhD student – Lab of Nico Callewaert, Center for Medical Biotechnology – VIB-Ugent (Faculty of Science)
Principal investigator: prof. Nico Callewaert (PhD)


Research focus

DNA methylation has proven a valid biomarker in cancer diagnostics holding numerous advantages. The abnormal methylation profile is an early event in tumorigenesis, specific to the tissue-of-origin and more consistent within cancer subtypes compared to mutations. Last but not least abnormal methylation patterns of tumor cells are also retained in the circulating DNA unlocking the potential of non invasive diagnostics through liquid biopsies. Despite the great promise that DNA methylation holds as a biomarker, it has not yet been widely implemented in the clinical practice, due to limitations in the analytical measurement methods. The Callewaert group with Dr Andries De Koker as a project leader has managed to develop a cost-effective methylome profiling method (termed ‘cfRRBS’) suitable to be performed in liquid biopsies. However, detection of the tumor methylation signature in liquid biopsies can prove challenging especially in cases of low tumor load due to high noise originating from cell free DNA of non tumour cells.
My research focuses on further development of cfRRBS by exploring innovative ways to enrich the cancer signal which will expand the application potential of cfRRBS including monitoring drug response and early relapse. In parrarel I aim to highlight the potential of cfRRBS as a biomarker discovery platform by setting up clinical studies (eg DNA methylation biomarkers related to drug response in DLBCL and early detection of HCC in patients with liver cirrhosis).

Contact & links

  • Lab address: VIB Medical Biotechnology Center, Technologiepark-Zwijnaarde 75, 9052 Gent, Belgium
  • Center for Medical Biotechnology – VIB   
  • We are available to assist groups interested in DNA methylation get started with cfRRBS. 
  • Anxhela Zaka is interested to receive invitations for talks or presentations