Leukemia niche – Hong Qian group

Our mission on research and education is to understand the role of mesenchymal niche in leukemia and tissue regeneration with the ultimate goal of identifying novel therapeutic strategies to improve treatment outcome in patients. The research group aims to build and nourish the niche for the team members to grow, while creating a supportive niche for our research projects.

Hong Qian research group are standing in an open shaft through the floors of a building
Hong Qian's research group in Neo. Photo: Amalia Kewenter

About our research

The group is part of the Center for Hematology and Regenerative Medicine (HERM).

Mission of the research group 

The primary aim of our research is to understand the role of bone marrow (BM) microenvironment/niche and the underlying molecular mechanisms in the development and treatment response of myeloid malignancies including chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The long-term goal is to identify new niche factors that can serve as novel therapeutic targets for more effective treatment of the diseases. 

We achieve this by using both primary patient samples and mouse models to characterize bone marrow mesenchymal niche with the help of advanced techniques including multi-colour flow cytometry, RNA-sequencing, confocal imaging, in vivo fate-mapping, mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) assays. The functional and therapeutic impact of the altered niche factors on leukemia-initiating stem cells are tested by gene-editing, transgenic mouse models, in vitro co-culture assays and experimental transplantation in collaboration with national and international experts in the field of stem cell niche. We hope to translate the research findings into clinic in collaboration with multiple haematologists/scientists in Nordic countries. 

Open positions

We always want to get in touch with talented potential co-workers. If you are interested in doing research within our group, as a degree project or as a researcher, please contact the group leader Hong Qian.

Oral presentations given at international conferences

  • Pingnan Xiao at the 56th ASH Annual meeting in San Francisco, USA (2014).
  • Monika Dolinska at the 17th John Goldman CML conference in Estoril, Portugal (2015).
  • Lakshmi Sandhow at ISSCR conference in Stockholm, Sweden (2015).
  • Monika Dolinska at the ESH MSC conference in Amsterdam (2017).
  • Makoto Kondo at the 58th ASH meeting in San Diego, USA (2016).
  • Lakshmi Sandhow at the ISSCR conference in Melbourne, Australia (2018).

Student and Postdoc Award

  1. The 56th ASH abstract achievement award to Pingnan Xiao (2014).
  2. The 58th ASH abstract achievement award to Makoto Kondo (2016).
  3. The Incyte Award to Monika Dolinska (2018).
  4. Travel award from International Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) to Lakshmi Sandhow (2018).
  5. Student award from Mayo Clinic for the 8th Mayo Clinic Symposium on Tumor Microenvironment and Cancer Therapeutics in Jacksonville, Florifa, USA (2018).
  6. The Incyte Award for hematological research to Huan Cai (2021)

Collaborations (major)

Sweden, Karolinska Institutet

Sweden, other 

  • Prof. Anders Blomqvist, Linköping University.
  • Prof. Marja Ekblom, Lund University.
  • Dr. Ulla Strömberg, Hematology Centrum, Uppsala University Hospital.


  • Nordic CML study group (NCMLSG).
  • Nordic society of pediatric hematology and oncology (NOPHO).
  • Prof. Nagahiro Minato, Kyoto University for MPN mouse model.
  • Prof. Satu Mustjoki, Hematology Centrum, Helsinki University Hospital, Finland.

Video to "Skin mesenchymal niches maintain and protect AML-initiating stem cells".

The group has revealed the previously unrecognized roles of skin mesenchymal niches in maintaining and protecting acute myeloid leukemia (AML) stem cells under steady state and during chemotherap. For the first time, the group has shown that the AML cells hidden in the skin tissue are highly enriched with leukemia-initiating stem cells even post-chemotherapy.

The Journal of experimental medicine 2023 220;10.


Selected publications


  • Wallenberg Institutet for Regenerative Medicine (WIRM).
  • Karolinska Institutet Research foundation (KI fonder).
  • KI Funding for Doctoral Education (KID funding).
  • The Swedish Cancer Society (Cancerfonden).
  • The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet).
  • The Swedish Childhood Cancer Society (Barncancerfonden).
  • Radiumhemmets Forskningsfonder (The Cancer Research Foundations of Radiumhemmet).
  • Felix Mindus bidrag till leukemiforskningen.
  • Dr. Åke Olsson Foundation for hematological research.
  • Stiftelsen Clas Groschinskys Minnesfond.
  • The Incyte Nordic Grant for Hematological Research.
  • The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW), PI: Qiang Pan-Hammarström, Co-PI: Petter Brodin, Lennart Hammarström, Hong Qian.
  • The Blue Sky Research Grant for Innovative Cancer Research.

Staff and contact

Group leader

All members of the group

Visiting address

Karolinska Institute, Department of Medicine Huddinge, Medicinaren 25/Neo HERM plan 7 / HERM floor 7, Stockholm, - Select -, 142 57, Sweden

Postal address

Karolinska Institute, Medicinaren 25/Neo HERM plan 7 / HERM floor 7, Stockholm, - Select -, 142 57, Sweden

Sofia Tosti

Visiting Master Student

Affiliated members

Marja Ekblom


Marcus Chang

Project assistant

Previous group members

  • Pingnan Xiao, PhD student (2012-2017), currently Physician, first Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University, China.
  • Andranik Durguryan, Postdoc (2013-2014).
  • Eleni Gelali, Johannis Klang, Alexandre Piccini, Master students (2014-2015).
  • Monika Dolinska, PhD student (2014-2019).
  • Makoto Kondo, Postdoc (2014-2017), currently Assistant Professor at College of Pharmacy, Utah, USA.
  • Thibault Bouderlique, Postdoc (2015-2017).
  • Sanchari Choudhury, Yuchen Gao, Leah Hernandez-Muñoz, Moeen Ud-din, Master students (2019-2020).
  • Anne-Sofie Johansson, Senior Lab Manager at HERM.
  • Elory Leonard, Jingyi Shen, Master students (2020-2021).
  • Lakshmi Sandhow, PhD student (2015-2020), currently Postdoc at INSERM, France (2022).
  • Letian Yang, Summer student (2021), currently at KTH, Stockholm.