Marthe Boelens

CRIG member
Marthe Boelens

Doctoral fellow - Department of Biomedical molecular biology – VIB-UGent
Principal investigator: prof. Kris Vleminckx (PhD) 


Research focus

Over the last couple of years the Vleminckx lab has exploited CRISPR/Cas9 mediated genome editing to model desmoid tumor formation in Xenopus tropicalis. Three genetic models have been obtained for desmoid tumors in X. tropicalis by modulating the Wnt signaling pathway, which allows for genetic dependency mapping and pre-clinical drug studies. The importance of the PRC2 gene silencing complex, and the histone methyltransferase activity of EZH2, in desmoid tumorigenesis was demonstrated through the use of an in-house developed experimental pipeline (i.e. CRISPR-SID). As a dependency factor EZH2 can be targeted by the EZH2 inhibitor Tazemetostat (an FDA-approved drug for epithelioid sarcoma and follicular lymphoma). Desmoid-tumor-bearing apc crispants (F0 mosaic mutants) have been subjected to the proposed drug treatment and revealed reduction or stasis in desmoid tumor size upon treatment. Hence, our Xenopus model presents a unique platform that

  • allows the rapid screening and evaluation of genes contributing to tumor growth,
  • could serve to assess the clinical relevance of novel drug targets for the treatment of desmoid tumors and
  • can be used for preclinical drug screening/assessment.

We believe that our model offers a unique opportunity that can be easily incorporated into the research lines of several groups active in the field of desmoid tumor research and thus can contribute to the development of a cure.

Contact & links

  • Lab address: Department of Biomedical molecular biology, VIB-UGent, Technologiepark Zwijnaarde 71, 9000 Gent, Belgium
  • Providing specific platforms or services for other researchers :
    1) UZ Ghent - Sequencing facility
    2) VIB – X. tropicalis animal facility for preclinical cancer research
  • Member of the Consortium for Sarcoma Research Ghent (ConSaRGhent)
  • Marthe Boelens is interested to receive invitations for presentations or talks