Elien Hilgert

CRIG member
Elien Hilgert

Doctoral fellow - Lab for pediatric oncogenomics, Center for Medical Genetics (UGent)
Principal investigator: prof. Frank Speleman (PhD)


Research focus

Neuroblastoma is a tumor arising in the nervous system and almost exclusively exist in children younger than five years old. Unfortunately, half of these tumors are very aggressive and still extremely difficult to cure. In recent decades it has been shown that neuroblastoma tumors almost have no mutations, but instead a lot of copy number alterations occur. One of these copy numbers is gain of 17q which is correlated with poor patient outcome.
In my research, I use both in vivo zebrafish models and in vitro cell lines to further unravel the role of 17q gain in neuroblastoma. My study focusses on BRIP1, one of the most robustly upregulated 17q genes in neuroblastoma development. The lab already provided strong functional evidence for an oncogenic role of BRIP1 in neuroblastoma development (Vanhauwaert et al, in preparation). I propose to further investigate this putative oncogenic role to determine whether BRIP1 is important in the initiation of tumor development or in maintaining the tumor genome. Furthermore, I will perform structure-function analyses to determine which functionalities of BRIP1 are important for tumor dependency. Finally, potential new interesting domains in BRIP1 will be identified as well. This will ultimately lead to novel insights into BRIP1 function, which may contribute to novel targeted therapies.


I obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Biomedical Sciences (Antwerp University, 2018), after which I obtained a Master's Degree in Biomedical Sciences with a major in Oncology (Ghent University, 2020).
In september 2020 I started a PhD at the lab of prof. Frank Speleman, where I investigate the oncogenic role of BRIP1 in neuroblastoma.

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