dr. Kathleen Schoofs (PhD)

CRIG member
Kathleen Schoofs

Postdoctoral Fellow - Lab of Translational Onco-genomics and Bio-informatics (TOBI), Center for Medical Biotechnology (VIB-UGent)
Principal Investigator: prof. Katleen De Preter (PhD)


Research focus

Over the past decade, circulating cell-free nucleic acids in blood have emerged as valuable non-invasive biomarkers for precision oncology. Despite rapid advancements in the field, questions persist about specific tumor components contributing to cell-free nucleic acid presence. To grasp the full potential of circulating tumor nucleic acids in clinicopathologic applications, it is necessary to better comprehend the representation of (sub)clones in blood. To investigate this, molecularly barcoded mouse models can be used. In my research I will focus on neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer with known tumor heterogeneity that contributes to therapy resistance. 

In my postdoctoral research I investigate the spatial location of the subclones releasing nucleic acids in blood in neuroblastoma mouse models and I will determine how the nucleic acid composition changes upon therapy resistance. To do this, mouse models with molecularly barcoded tumors will be used to trace DNA and RNA coming from different genetic tumor clones. With this research I aim to address some of the knowledge gaps in the liquid biopsy field that are needed for optimizing and interpreting liquid biopsy assays and advancing personalized medicine.

In addition, I am involved in the project around Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP). Patients with a CUP have a metastasized cancer for which the tissue-of-origin cannot be determined (around 3-5% of cancer patients). Uncertainty about their diagnosis, prognosis and planned therapies is often listed as one of the main causes of anxiety in these patients and is severely impacting the quality of life. In this project we use methylation patterns of the cell-free DNA in liquid biopsies (including blood) to determine the tissue-of-origin in CUPs). 


Kathleen Schoofs obtained her Master’s degree in Forensic Science at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. As part of this degree she stayed nine months at the University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom, and wrote her MSc thesis titled ‘Sequencing the mitochondrial genome of two forensically important blowfly species: Lucilia caesar and Lucilia illustris’. After obtaining her Master’s degree Kathleen Schoofs continued to work in the field of nuclear forensics for several years. In 2017 she moved to Belgium and did an internship at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN) with the radiobiology research group, where her research focused on identifying novel RNA biomarkers in blood of persons exposed to radiation. Her curiosity and interest for biomarker research as well as cancer research grew and resulted in her PhD position in the teams of prof. Katleen De Preter, prof. Jo Vandesompele and prof. Piet Pattyn. In 2023 she obtained her PhD entitled “Nucleic acid biomarkers in blood from patients with esophageal adenocarcinoma - finding the needle in the haystack”. She currently is a post-doctoral researcher in the team of prof. Katleen De Preter at the VIB-UGent, focusing on liquid biopsies in cancer. 

Contact & links

  • Lab address VIB:  
    VIB Center for Medical Biotechnology
    UGent Department of Biomolecular Medicine
    Technologiepark-Zwijnaarde 75 - 9052 Ghent 
  • TOBI lab 
  • OncoRNALab
  • Center for Medical Genetics Ghent
  • Kathleen Schoofs is interested to receive invitations for presentations or talks