Hedgehog signalling, tissue stem cells and cancer development - Rune Toftgård

Inappropriate reactivation of developmental signalling pathways such as the Hedgehog (Hh) pathway is a common event during cancer development.

Mutational inactivation or activation of core components of the Hh-pathway underlies cell autonomous activation in basal cell carcinoma of the skin (BCC) and in medulloblastoma. In other tumour types such as pancreatic cancer and breast cancer additional activation mechanisms are present.

A major focus of our research is to understand the details of Hh signalling at the genetic, molecular and structural level with emphasis on the key intracellular SUFU and GLI components. Secondly, to understand how aberrant activation of this pathway can drive cancer development in skin, mammary gland and pancreas combining studies of genetically modified preclinical models and of human tissues. Thirdly, to devise new methods aimed at pharmacological inhibition of the Hh signalling pathway at the level of the GLI transcriptional effectors building on our detailed biological and molecular studies of the pathway.

To understand cancer biology and how to best eradicate tumour cells we must know the biology of normal tissues including the nature of tissue stem and progenitor cells, their interconversions and their ability to serve as cancer cell of origin. With this aim we investigate the presence and functional properties of tissue stem cells marked by expression of Lgr5 and Lgr6 in human and murine skin and mammary gland.

SOX9 and LGR 5 tissue stem cell markers

Picture of a part of a human hair follicle illustrating expression of the tissue stem cell markers SOX9 (red) and LGR5 (green) in the outer root sheath keratinocytes. Positive staining for LGR5 is also seen in sebocytes. Nuclei are counterstained in blue.

Group members

Biomedical scientist

Agneta Birgitta Andersson

Phone: +46-(0)8-524 811 33
Organizational unit: Toftgård
E-mail: agneta.andersson.1@ki.se

PhD student

Ani Azatyan

Organizational unit: Zaphiropoulos
E-mail: ani.azatyan@ki.se

Assistant professor

Leander Blaas

Organizational unit: Toftgård
E-mail: leander.blaas@ki.se

Research coordinator

Yumei Diao

Organizational unit: Zaphiropoulos
E-mail: yumei.diao@ki.se

Research coordinator

Sandra Falck

E-mail: sandra.falck@ki.se

Senior lab manager

Csaba Finta

Phone: +46-(0)8-524 811 67
Organizational unit: Department of Biosciences and Nutrition (BioNut), H2
E-mail: Csaba.Finta@ki.se


Marco Gerling

Organizational unit: Department of Biosciences and Nutrition (BioNut), H2
E-mail: marco.gerling@ki.se


Jens Norum

Organizational unit: Toftgård
E-mail: Jens.Henrik.Norum@ki.se


Uta Rabenhorst

Organizational unit: Toftgård
E-mail: uta.rabenhorst@ki.se

Laboratory manager

Maryam Saghafian

Phone: +46-(0)73-917 60 43
Organizational unit: Tinglöv
E-mail: maryam.saghafian@ki.se
Senior Scientist
Stephan Teglund
Elin Tüksammel
Professor, senior

Rune Toftgård

Phone: +46-(0)8-524 810 53
Organizational unit: Department of Biosciences and Nutrition (BioNut), H2
E-mail: Rune.Toftgard@ki.se


Peter Zaphiropoulos

Phone: +46-(0)8-524 810 52
Organizational unit: Zaphiropoulos
E-mail: Peter.Zaphiropoulos@ki.se
Signal transductionStem cells