Georg Halder Lab

Research focus

Growth is fundamental to development, yet remarkably little is known about the mechanisms that control organ size. How do cells know when to stop dividing after an organ has reached its proper size, and how do injured organs regenerate damaged or missing parts? We are using the fruit fly Drosophila as a genetic model system and vertebrate cell culture systems to address these questions and to discover signaling pathways that regulate growth, regeneration and the development of cancer.

We translate the knowledge gained in Drosophila to vertebrate systems where we address questions of growth control and cancer in cell culture systems that mimic in vivo situations, such as two- and three-dimensional hydrogel cultures. The combination of the powerful genetic tools available in Drosophila with novel and complex mammalian experimental cellular systems provides a superb platform in which to discover and study the signaling mechanisms governing organ growth control, regeneration and cancer cell evolution. Through genome-wide genetic screens in Drosophila we discovered a novel growth control pathway, the “Hippo pathway”.

Animals carrying mutations in hippo develop severely overgrown structures and have tumorous overgrowths. Strikingly, the Hippo pathway is highly conserved in vertebrates where it also regulates growth and is often mutant in cancer. We are currently using several genetic screening strategies such as a genome-wide transgenic RNAi library and chemical mutagenesis to screen for upstream regulator of the Hippo pathway.

We currently focus on three main topics: 

  1. How mechanical forces regulate cellular behavior and the Hippo pathway
  2. The regulation of cell competition and the role of the Hippo pathway therein, and 
  3. The role of the Hippo pathway in cancer cell dormancy. These three projects are highly related and interconnected and aim at understanding the extracellular signals that regulate the Hippo pathway and how Hippo signaling and other pathways are normally involved in growth control and regeneration and how misregulation of the Hippo pathway leads to cancer.


Peritumoral activation of the Hippo pathway effectors YAP and TAZ suppresses liver cancer in mice.Moya Iván* Castaldo Stéphanie* Van den Mooter Laura* Soheily Soheil* Sansores-Garcia Leticia Jacobs Jelle Mannaerts Inge Xie Jun Verboven Elisabeth Hillen Hanne Algueró-Nadal Ana Karaman Ruchan Van Haele Matthias Kowalczyk Weronika De Waegeneer Maxime Verhulst Stefaan Karras Panagiotis van Huffel Leen Zender Lars Marine Jean-Christophe Roskams Tania Johnson Randy Aerts Stein van Grunsven Leo Halder Georg@SCIENCE, 366, 1029-1034, 2019* or °: authors contributed equally@: corresponding authors
Cell Junctions in Hippo SignalingKaraman Ruchan Halder GeorgCold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology, 10, a028753, 2018
Hippo Reprograms the Transcriptional Response to Ras SignalingPascual J* Jacobs J* Sansores L Natarajan M Zeitlinger J Aerts S* Halder G* Hamaratoglu F*DEVELOPMENTAL CELL, 42, 667-680 e4, 2017* or °: authors contributed equally
The Hippo pathway in cellular reprogramming and regeneration of different organsMoya Iván Halder GeorgCURRENT OPINION IN CELL BIOLOGY, 43, 62-68, 2016
An Ectopic Network of Transcription Factors Regulated by Hippo Signaling Drives Growth and Invasion of a Malignant Tumor ModelAtkins M* Potier D* Romanelli L Jacobs J Mach J Hamaratoglu F Aerts S* Halder G*CURRENT BIOLOGY, 26, 2101-13, 2016* or °: authors contributed equally

Job openings


Encouraging normal liver cells to fight cancer

25/11/2019 - A study conducted at the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology discovered that healthy liver tissue surrounding a tumor activates a defence mechanism that restrains tumor growth.

Georg Halder

Georg Halder

Research area(s)

Model organism(s)


​​PhD: University Basel, Switzerland, 1996
Postdoc: University of Wisconsin Madison 1996-2000
Assistant Professor : University of Texas, Anderson Cancer Research Centre 2000-2006
Associate Professor : University of Texas, Anderson Cancer Research Centre 2006-2012
VIB group leader since 1/6/2012​​

Contact Info

VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer BiologyO&N 4, 9e verdCampus GasthuisbergHerestraat 49, bus 912 3000 LEUVENRoute description