dr. Elly De Vlieghere (PhD)

CRIG member

Post-doctoral researcher - Polymer Chemistry and Biomaterials Group, Centre of Macromolecular Chemistry, UGent
Principal investigator:  prof. Sandra Van Vlierberghe (PhD)


Research focus

Tumor do not only consist out of cancer cells, they are a part of the complex tumor-environment. The tumor environment plays an important role in therapy outcome. The tumor environment is recognized as an imported factor in therapy outcome. However, current models focus on the cancer cells, while incorporating the stroma creates models with a higher clinical relevance. With these models we aim to fill the gap between pre-clinical and clinical research, increasing the success rate. 
Pre-clinical models:

  • 3D heterocellular spheroid in vitro culture
  • Tumor engineered scaffolds that mimic the tumor environment on cellular and biophysical level
  • in vitro ECM production and collection tumor engineering 



I was the first PhD student (2009 – 2015) at LECR to combine cancer research with biomaterials and tissue engineering. The combination of cell biology, 3D (in vivo) culture and (polymer)chemistry resulted is very specific challenges. To succeed in this multi-disciplinary project, I started collaboration with several (at this moment 11) experts in their field, however often missing knowledge of the other fields to adequately respond to the interdisciplinary challenges. To solve this issue, I made it my mission not to become an expert in one field but to broaden my horizon as much as possible. I now have a strong basic knowledge in these complementary fields (tumor environment, oncology, functional cell biology, pathology, in vivo and in vitro (3D) imaging, statistics, nanomedicine, biomaterials, polymer chemistry, 3D printing, …) and became an expert in ‘tumor engineering’. This has resulted, among others, in two first authorship papers in Biomaterials (first ranked journal) and attention on the European and World conferences for biomaterials (ESB2022, ESB2021, WBC2020, ESB2019, ESB2017, WBC2016 and ESB2013).
My goal as a researcher is to goal is to improve preclinical cancer research by creating clinical relevant in models that incorporate the complex tumor environment.

Key publications

  • ‘MISpheroID : a knowledgebase and transparency tool for minimum information in spheroid identity.’ Nature Methods, 2021 (DOI)
  • ‘Heterocellular 3D scaffolds as biomimetic to recapitulate the tumor microenvironment of peritoneal metastases in vitro and in vivo’. Biomaterials, 2018. (PMID: 29306747)
  • ‘Radiotherapy-Activated Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts Promote Tumor Progression through Paracrine IGF1R Activation.’ Cancer Research, 2018. (PMID: 29217764)
  • ‘Tumor-environment biomimetics delay peritoneal metastasis formation by deceiving and redirecting disseminated cancer cells.’ Biomaterials, 2015. (PMID: 25907048)
  • ‘Cancer-associated fibroblasts as target and tool in cancer therapeutics and diagnostics'. Virchows Archives, 2015. (PMID: 26259962)
  • ‘Hypoxia imaging with 18F-FAZA PET/CT predicts radiotherapy response in esophageal adenocarcinoma xenografts.’ Radiation Oncology, 2018. (PMID:29514673)
  • ‘Glucocorticoids indirectly decrease colon cancer cell proliferation and invasion via effects on cancer-associated fibroblasts.’ Experimental Cell Research, 2018. (PMID: 29196164)
  • ‘Improved xenograft efficiency of esophageal adenocarcinoma cell lines through in vivo selection.’ Oncology Reports, 2017. (PMID: 28504813)
  • ‘ADAM-17/FHL2 colocalisation suggests interaction and role of these proteins in colorectal cancer.’ Tumour Biology, 2017. (PMID: 28349819)
  • ‘Quantitative evaluation of single cell spread on collagen matrices.’ Experimental Cell Research, 2016. (PMID: 27751839)

Contact & links