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The mission of the Center for Cancer Biology (CCB), former Vesalius Research Center (VRC, VIB3) is to address medically relevant questions by integrating genetic and functional genomic approaches, state-of-the-art technologies, preclinical research and to develop potential, novel, therapeutic concepts and treatments. The unique combination of two different, vascular and neurobiological, research fields provides a rich source for cross-fertilizing ideas and studying important biological processes and diseases.

The ambition of the CCB is to unravel complex diseases, such as cancer, involving a variety of different cell types, including endothelial cells, stromal, tumor and immune cells. The behavior of a tumor and its response to specific cancer therapies, are difficult to predict but largely depend on its cellular morphology, tumor metabolism, the genetic and epigenetic changes accumulating in the tumor cells, as well as the tumor microenvironment, which consists of the tumor vasculature and infiltrating immune cells, in addition to several other cell types.

The focus of the CCB laboratories is on characterizing the molecular processes of tumor development and metastasis and on understanding how the tumor interacts with, and is influenced by, its microenvironment, focusing for instance on the processes underlying tumor vessel growth (angiogenesis), immune cell infiltration and adaptions to the tumor. To study each of these key processes comprehensively, different genetic (mutations, chromosomal rearrangements, deletions and amplifications) and epigenetic (DNA methylation and histone modifications) aberrations are studied. Experimental set-ups to characterize metabolic changes in tumor and endothelial cells are operational, whereas several innovative genetically-engineered animal models (zebrafish and mice) and the infrastructure to study malignant disease processes in them, are available. Furthermore, collaborations with local hospitals, offer access to unique patient cohorts treated with various cancer therapies, and allow our novel insights to be validated in a clinically-relevant setting.

The CCB also contributes to the understanding of the mechanism of neurodegenerative disorders and to the development of therapies for patients suffering from it. An immense part of our research focuses on identification and validation of targets that modify the clinical expression of neurodegenerative diseases.


CCB aims to provide a high standard of training and education for its junior staff.  Apart from excellence, we want our technicians, PhD students, postdocs and group leaders to actively participate in creating an environment of scientific excellence, translational potential, intellectual challenge, scientific enthusiasm and curiosity, and last but not least ‘joie de vivre’. We CCB is committed to provide opportunities to doctoral and postdoctoral students to become optimally prepared for a future (scientific) independent career: guidance of presentations, grant writing, invitation to international seminars, reviewing of publications and grants, supervision of junior scientists or technicians, research planning and lab micromanagement. Various social initiatives like retreats, X-mass party, monthly Happy Hour, sports activities and other social events create an open environment facilitating interaction between the groups.


Cancer research offers, perhaps more than any other research area, unique opportunities for translational research. CCB valorizes its basic research findings. The CCB invests in translational medicine, not only by fostering top-level basic research as seeding ground for valorization projects, but also by filing patent applications, developing novel therapeutic strategies and identifying appropriate targets to design innovative drug through interactive strategic alliances with oncologists and biotech industry.


Karen Vousden, Paolo Sassone-Corsi, Christian Frezza, Nika Danial
12/09/2017 - 09:00