prof. Olivier De Wever (PhD)

CRIG group leader
Olivier De Wever

Principal investigator - Laboratory of Experimental Cancer Research
Full professor (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, UGent)
Co-founder of CRIG and former chairman of the CRIG Steering Committee (2019-2022)


Research focus

Metastasis is the main cause of death for cancer patients. To colonize distant organs, cancer cells communicate with their environment to overcome obstacles such as infiltration of foreign tissues and adaptation to supportive niches. Although metastasis is an inefficient process; we currently fail to understand it, to prevent it and to have durable responses.
The group of prof. Olivier De Wever at the Laboratory of Experimental Cancer Research dedicates its resources to improve the understanding of the communicative determinants between cancer cells and their host tissue. The results of this research can be clustered in two topics:

  1. 3D cell culture models (such as spheroids) and patient-derived models (ex vivo and xenograft) to study metastasis-associated cellular activities
  2. The identification of adaptive communication skills between cancer cells and host cells (cancer-associated fibroblast, CAF) and its impact on cancer management strategies 


Prof. Olivier De Wever dedicates his scientific life to understand the involvement of the tumor environment to cancer progression. During his PhD he published seminal fundamental papers showing the importance of CAF in colon cancer progression (De Wever et al., FASEBJ 2004, J Pathol 2003, J Cell Science 2004). During his post-doc he continued to focus on the origin of CAF  (De Boeck et al., GUT 2013) and expanded his research ideas into cancer-associated adipose tissue (Lapeire et al., Cancer Res 2014). Prof. Olivier De Wever was visiting scientist at NIH (Bethesda, US) and Centre de Recherche Hôpital Saint-Antoine (Paris, France) and University of Calgary (Calgary, Canada). 

The current lab is an ecosystem to study tumor-environment interactions  including design of model systems (De Jaeghere and De Vlieghere et al., Biomaterials 2018), response to therapy of CAF (Tommelein et al., Cancer Res 2018), and exploitation of CAF as therapy (De Vlieghere et al., Biomaterials 2015). Several review papers are published focusing on tumor environment interactions (De Wever et al., Semin Cancer Biol 2014; De Jaeghere et al., Trends Cancer 2019; Steenbrugge et al., Cancer Res 2021). Guidelines and minimum information for spheroid 3D cell cultures are identified by initiating the MISpheroID consortium (Peirsman and Blondeel et al., Nature Methods 2021). Patient-derived orthotopic xenograft models are established to study minimal residual disease and metastatic relapse (Fischer et al., Clin Trans Med 2023).

In his 20 years long scientific career he published more than 200 A1 papers, he has an H-index of 55 and is editorial board member of an important oncology journal; Cancer Research.

Research team

Laboratory of Experimental Cancer Research

Key publications

  • Post-operative minimal residual disease models to study metastatic relapse in soft-tissue sarcoma patient-derived xenografts. Clinical Translational Medicine, 2023
  • MISpheroID: a knowledgebase and transparency tool for minimum information in spheroid identity. Nature Methods 2021
  • Splenic Hematopoietic and Stromal Cells in Cancer Progression. Cancer Res 2021
  • Fibroblasts Fuel Immune Escape in the Tumor Microenvironment. Trends Cancer 2019
  • Heterocellular 3D scaffolds as biomimetic to recapitulate the tumor microenvironment of peritoneal metastases in vitro and in vivo. Biomaterials 2018
  • Radiotherapy-Activated Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts Promote Tumor Progression through Paracrine IGF1R Activation. Cancer Res 2018
  • Cancer-associated adipose tissue promotes breast cancer progression by paracrine Oncostatin M and Jak/STAT3 signaling. Cancer Res 2014
  • Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts provide operational flexibility in metastasis. Seminars in Cancer Biology, 2014.
  • Tumor-environment biomimetics delay peritoneal metastasis formation by deceiving and redirecting disseminated cancer cells. Biomaterials, 2015.
  • Bone marrow-derived  mesenchymal stem cells promote colorectal cancer progression through paracrine neuregulin 1/HER3 signaling. Gut, 2013.
  • Tenascin-C and SF/HGF produced by myofibroblasts in vitro provide convergent pro-invasive signals to human colon cancer cells through RhoA and Rac.  FASEB J., 2004

Contact & links

  • Lab address: 
    Laboratory of Experimental Cancer Research
    Dept of Radiation Oncology and Experimental Cancer Research, 
    Campus UZ Gent, Corneel Heymanslaan 10, The Core, ingang 37, 9000 Gent, Belgium 
  • Member of the Consortium for Sarcoma Research Ghent (ConSaRGhent)
  • prof. De Wever is interested to receive invitations for presentations or talks