Principal investigators: 
Research interest: 

The research team of Johan Swinnen focusses on altered lipid metabolism in cancer cells. Using a state-of-the-art mass spectrometry-based lipidomics technology the group has made the intriguing observation that development and progression of cancer is almost invariably accompanied by dramatic changes in the cell’s composition of phospholipids. As phospholipids play a key role in the formation of membranes, which organize numerous cancer-associated processes (signal transduction, energy metabolism, cell death mechanisms, etc.), this observation has led to a whole new concept in which cancer cells modulate their functioning by changing their membrane lipid composition. The team aims to further establish this concept and to translate these findings into innovative diagnostic tests and treatments.

Key publications: 
  1. Rueda-Rincon, N., Bloch, K., Derua, R., Vyas, R., Harms, A., Hankemeier, T., Khan, N. A., Dehairs, J., Bagadi, M., Binda, M. M., Waelkens, E., Marine, J. C., and Swinnen, J. V. (2015) p53 attenuates AKT signaling by modulating membrane phospholipid composition. Oncotarget 6, 21240-21254
  2. Marien, E., Meister, M., Muley, T., Fieuws, S., Bordel, S., Derua, R., Spraggins, J., Van de Plas, R., Dehairs, J., Wouters, J., Bagadi, M., Dienemann, H., Thomas, M., Schnabel, P. A., Caprioli, R. M., Waelkens, E., and Swinnen, J. V. (2015) Non-small cell lung cancer is characterized by dramatic changes in phospholipid profiles. Int J Cancer 137, 1539-1548
  3. Gijs, H. L., Willemarck, N., Vanderhoydonc, F., Khan, N. A., Dehairs, J., Derua, R., Waelkens, E., Taketomi, Y., Murakami, M., Agostinis, P., Annaert, W., and Swinnen, J. V. (2015) Primary cilium suppression by SREBP1c involves distortion of vesicular trafficking by PLA2G3. Mol Biol Cell 26, 2321-2332
  4. Dehairs, J., Derua, R., Rueda-Rincon, N., and Swinnen, J. V. (2015) Lipidomics in drug development. Drug Discov Today Technol 13, 33-38
  5. Zaidi, N., Royaux, I., Swinnen, J. V., and Smans, K. (2012) ATP citrate lyase knockdown induces growth arrest and apoptosis through different cell- and environment-dependent mechanisms. Mol Cancer Ther 11, 1925-1935
  6. Willemarck, N., Rysman, E., Brusselmans, K., Van Imschoot, G., Vanderhoydonc, F., Moerloose, K., Lerut, E., Verhoeven, G., van Roy, F., Vleminckx, K., and Swinnen, J. V. (2010) Aberrant activation of fatty acid synthesis suppresses primary cilium formation and distorts tissue development. Cancer Res 70, 9453-9462
  7. Rysman, E., Brusselmans, K., Scheys, K., Timmermans, L., Derua, R., Munck, S., Van Veldhoven, P. P., Waltregny, D., Daniels, V. W., Machiels, J., Vanderhoydonc, F., Smans, K., Waelkens, E., Verhoeven, G., and Swinnen, J. V. (2010) De novo lipogenesis protects cancer cells from free radicals and chemotherapeutics by promoting membrane lipid saturation. Cancer Res 70, 8117-8126
  8. Beckers, A., Organe, S., Timmermans, L., Scheys, K., Peeters, A., Brusselmans, K., Verhoeven, G., and Swinnen, J. V. (2007) Chemical inhibition of acetyl-CoA carboxylase induces growth arrest and cytotoxicity selectively in cancer cells. Cancer Res 67, 8180-8187
  9. Swinnen, J. V., Beckers, A., Brusselmans, K., Organe, S., Segers, J., Timmermans, L., Vanderhoydonc, F., Deboel, L., Derua, R., Waelkens, E., De Schrijver, E., Van de Sande, T., Noel, A., Foufelle, F., and Verhoeven, G. (2005) Mimicry of a cellular low energy status blocks tumor cell anabolism and suppresses the malignant phenotype. Cancer Res 65, 2441-2448
  10. Brusselmans, K., De Schrijver, E., Verhoeven, G., and Swinnen, J. V. (2005) RNA interference-mediated silencing of the acetyl-CoA-carboxylase-alpha gene induces growth inhibition and apoptosis of prostate cancer cells. Cancer Res 65, 6719-6725