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Cell Biology of Cancer - Staffan Strömblad

Our research focuses on key cellular events in cancer progression, with emphasis on cell migration and p21-activated kinase 4 (Pak4).

Depending on the properties of the surrounding extracellular matrix, cancer cells can utilize different migration strategies for dissemination. This adaptive behavior expands the range of tissue contexts under which cancer cells can efficiently invade. Expanding on this knowledge, we recently identified two distinct modes of mesenchymal migration and that perturbing cell-ECM interactions or tensile forces caused switching between these modes. We combine different quantitative microscopy techniques, including traction force microscopy and FRET signaling biosensors aiming to reveal mechanisms of migration mode switching and how distinct temporal phases are controlled and executed. These studies are expected to provide novel treatment opportunities targeting the most malignant aspect of any cancer, the ability to metastasize.

Pak4 is overexpressed in several human cancers and we previously linked Pak4 to promotion of cancer cell migration and to control of cell growth. To examine the role of Pak4 in cancer progression, our laboratory has in place a number of techniques, including in vitro models, transgenic mice, cancer mouse models, patient database bioinformatics and patient derived material, which are combined within our comprehensive yet molecularly detailed investigations, stretching also into testing Pak4 pharmacological targeting.

We have a large number of national and international collaborations and actively participate in different networks, including the European Union-H2020-Multimot project, the Swedish pan-university project “Systems microscopy of cancer cell migration” and the Karolinska Institute’s Breast Cancer Theme Center (BRECT) of which Strömblad is the vice director. Strömblad is also director of the Live Cell Imaging facility located at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition of Karolinska Institutet.

We are also participating in a research program entitled Use of Systems Microscopy to Understand Cancer Cell Migration.

Team members

Xiaowei Gong

Senior researcher

Helene Olofsson

Biomedical scientist

Jianjiang Hu


Tania Costa

PhD student

Sara Göransson

PhD student

Parisa Rabieifar

PhD student

Feifei Yan

PhD student

Selected Publications


The Strömblad laboratory is currently supported by grants from:


Available postdoc positions are generally announced at Karolinska Institutet’s KI-jobs page. However, outstanding candidates are welcome to apply at any time; Please send an introductory letter, CV, publication list, and three letters of reference to (Considered to be outstanding candidates are those who would be competitive for prestigious external fellowships, such as the EMBO long term fellowships).

Ph.D. students
All Ph.D. student positions will be announced at KI-jobs web page when available.

Master’s thesis students
For Master’s student projects (minimal time one term), please inquire with Staffan Strömblad. Please provide, in addition to information on timing, formal requirements, etc., also a cover letter of intent, CV, a copy of your University grades and at least two letters of reference.

We are unfortunately not able to host internships.


Visiting address:

Karolinska Institutet
Dept. of Biosciences and Nutrition
NEO/ Group
SE-141 83
Huddinge (Flemingsberg), Sweden

Postal address:

Karolinska Institutet,
Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Neo
SE-141 83 Huddinge Sweden