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Targeting metabolic regulation in metastasis formation


Distant metastases, i.e. secondary tumors, are the leading cause of cancer deaths. Many patients (especially with breast cancer) are diagnosed when cancer cells have already disseminated to distant organs. Thus, it is of profound importance to prevent the metastatic outgrowth of these disseminated cancer cells into secondary tumors. The ability to remodel the extracellular matrix (ECM) of the metastatic niche is essential for disseminated breast cancer cells to promote their own metastatic outgrowth. This process is to date believed to be transcriptionally regulated. However, the Fendt laboratory has discovered that the nutrient pyruvate metabolically drives ECM remodeling by breast cancer cells. In my project, I will build on this discovery and explore how to target ECM remodeling in metastatic outgrowth. First, I will determine the interaction between the discovered metabolic and the known transcriptional regulation of ECM remodeling. Secondly, I will translate this novel finding into therapeutic potential by defining how to selectively target it, thereby impairing metastatic outgrowth in the lung environment. Thirdly, I will define how the metastatic site and the cancer cell origin affect the discovered metabolic regulation of ECM remodeling, and thus metastatic outgrowth. To address these aims, I will use metabolomics, 13C tracer analysis, genetic engineering and nanotechnology-based drug-delivery in breast cancer 3D cultures and mouse models. With MetaTarGet, I will deliver (i) a mechanistic understanding of pyruvate metabolism as a regulator of ECM remodeling, and (ii) a novel therapeutic strategy to target metastatic outgrowth. This project will allow me to bridge my nanotechnology-based drug-delivery knowledge with the expertise of the Fendt laboratory in metastasis metabolism. Consequently, I will strengthen my research competences and enhance my personal research profile.

Field of science

  • /medical and health sciences/clinical medicine/oncology/cancer
  • /medical and health sciences/clinical medicine/oncology/cancer/breast cancer
  • /medical and health sciences/medical biotechnology/genetic engineering

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Rijvisschestraat 120
9052 Zwijnaarde - Gent
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
€ 166 320