Emma Robert

CRIG member
Emma Robert

Doctoral fellow – Molecular and Cellular Oncology lab (UGent) – Inflammation Research Center (IRC) – Department of Biomedical Molecular Biology
Principal investigator: prof. Geert Berx (PhD)


Research focus

Melanoma stands out as one of the most aggressive among all human cancers due to its remarkable capacity to swiftly transition from a localized lesion to a highly invasive, metastatic state. Central to the development and progression of melanoma is the delicate interplay between the transcription factors ZEB1 and ZEB2, which are predominantly recognized for their involvement in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). However, despite their cooperative roles in EMT-related processes, these transcription factors exhibit opposing functions within the context of melanoma. ZEB2 expression is essential for the initial growth of primary melanomas and their ability to establish metastases at secondary sites. Conversely, ZEB1 expression is linked to the activation of an invasive transcriptional program, primarily influenced by the tumor microenvironment, enabling melanoma cells to acquire invasive properties. The shift from ZEB2 to ZEB1 expression marks a critical milestone in malignant progression and is commonly associated with the "phenotype switching" phenomenon.
Our research approach involves utilizing early passage melanoma cell lines, reporter cell lines, single-cell transcriptomics, and functional biology techniques. Our primary objective is investigating the physiological and pathological roles of EMT-inducing transcription factors within the melanocytic lineage which holds promise in unraveling how these master regulators orchestrate the acquisition of high-grade malignancy and resistance to therapeutic interventions in melanoma.

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