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 (NB) is an embryonal pediatric tumor arising from progenitor cells that give rise to the sympathetic nervous system. Unfortunately, half of these tumors are very aggressive and still extremely difficult to cure. NBs have a low mutational burden but present with highly recurrent DNA copy number alterations including 17q gain which is present in most high-risk cases.
My research is focusing on the study of the putative role of BRIP1 as a nonmutated dependency gene in the development of high-risk NB. BRIP1 is located on 17q and highly expressed in aggressive NBs. BRIP1 has been proposed as a master regulator of replication fork dynamics. I’m performing BRIP1 perturbation experiments in vitro to study the impact of BRIP1 on the cellular NB phenotype. In addition, I am making use of MYCN and BRIP1 stable overexpressing zebrafish lines to study the impact of BRIP1 on MYCN driven NB tumor initiation and maintenance. 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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