Dr. Marthe De Boevre receives prestigious ERC Starting Grant to study link between mycotoxins and cancer


Dr. Marthe De Boevre is one of the six UGent researchers that received a prestigious ERC starting grant from the European Commission, and will study the link between mycotoxins and cancer in the HUMYCO project.

Mycotoxins are toxic fungal metabolites, known to be the most hazardous of all food contaminants in terms of chronic toxicity. They have the potential to contribute to a diversity of adverse health effects in humans, and are unfortunately present in our daily diet.

The ERC research project HUMYCO hypothesizes that chronic low-dose intake of multiple mycotoxins are associated with an increased risk of developing human carcinomas. Focus is set to generate newly hypotheses-driven insights into the role of multiple mycotoxin exposure in the aetiology of human carcinomas. To understand these potential effects on human health, the behaviour of these mycotoxins in the human body is determined through both in vitro as human in vivo intervention studies by identifying and validating biomarkers of exposure and effect. The impact of mycotoxins on cancer development will be further investigated by measuring mycotoxin biomarkers in biological samples in both healthy individuals as cancer patients in Europe and Africa. These two regions are included as they both reflect different mycotoxin exposures: chronic low-dose and acute high-dose, respectively. Within the framework of the ITN UGent MYTOX-SOUTH® and the strong collaboration with a.o. WHO-IARC, access is granted to large epidemiological cohorts in both regions. In order to further explore causal relationships, a.o. genome-wide mutation spectra associated with chronic multi-exposure to mycotoxins will be experimentally determined. This multi-disciplinary & innovative project combines both fundamental as applied science, and contributes to health promotion and disease prevention by identifying possible risks for developing cancer as a result of our daily diet.

In 2019, dr. Marthe De Boevre and her team received a CRIG young investigators proof-of-concept grant (YIPOC grant laureates 6th call). The concept of YIPOC and preliminary data derived from other external funding resources such as FWO and BOF formed the backbone for a research section in the ERC-project HUMYCO.