Wilhelm lab

Our aim is to understand mechanisms regulating cancer and how the cross talk between tumor cells, the surrounding stroma and infiltrating immune cells control tumor development. We use reprogramming techniques to generate disease-relevant stem cell models that mimic the disease to uncover mechanisms that turn healthy cells into cancer cells and to uncover novel targets for developing future therapies.

Group members

Mechanisms regulating childhood tumors medulloblastoma and neuroblastoma

Medulloblastoma and Neuroblastoma are among the most common malignant neural tumors in children. Neural tumors constitute around one third of all childhood cancers, but almost half of the mortalities. Although advances in therapies have increased survival of the patients, many of the survivors experience complications due to the harsh treatment. This shows not only a need for increasing our understanding of molecular mechanisms operating during neural tumor formation, but furthermore, it highlights the importance of developing targeted therapies that will spare the developing child while specifically eradicating tumor cells.

To achieve this, we have developed new cancer models using human disease-relevant cell types. By somatic cell reprogramming to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells and differentiation to neural stem cells, we are developing new cancer models with cells from patients with familial driver mutations known to cause medulloblastoma and neuroblastoma.

Wilhelm lab, graphic illustrations of reprogramming of cells.
Reprogramming of cells. Photo: BioRender.com
Wilhelm lab, graphic illustrations of models for identifying molecular mechanisms.
Models for identifying molecular mechanisms. Photo: BioRender.com

Identification of novel therapeutic targets

We use our models for identifying molecular mechanisms regulating the disease but also for finding targets that could be used for precision cancer medicine. We combine hypothesis-driven approaches based on mechanistic studies with unbiased exploratory compound library screens to identify novel targets. Targets are validated using our cellular models, in vivo models and in patient material.

Wilhelm lab, graphic illustration of cerebellar organoid derived from iPS cells
Cerebellar organoid derived from iPS cells. PAX6 (red), Tuj1 (green). Photo: Niek van Bree

Develop ex-vivo neural organoid models

To create more sophisticated ex-vivo models, we are generating human brain organoids by differentiating iPS cells towards the neural lineage allowing for 3D self-organisation into brain-like structures. This allows us to study how cancer driver-mutations initiate tumor development, how transformed cells interact with neighboring cells, and provides a better model system to evaluate drug responses.

Wilhelm lab, graphic illustrations
Patrolling gd T cells engaged in killing tumor cells. Photo: Lola Boutin

The role of microenvironment in tumor development and how it can be used for cancer therapy

Our lab has a long-standing interest in the cross-talk between tumors cells and the microenvironment, and we have previously studied how tumor angiogenesis, hypoxic responses, drug resistance mechanisms, and immune responses are regulated.

Currently, we are interested how the age of the surrounding environment may affect tumor development. In addition, we are investigating the potential of using non-HLA restricted T cells, also called non-conventional T lymphocytes (NC-T cells), for adoptive cell therapy to eliminate tumors while sparing healthy tissue.


The Wilhelm lab are always looking for motivated Postdocs, please apply using contact information below.

Open positions for Doctoral students are posted on KI homepage when available.

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Margareta Wilhelm

Principal Researcher

Support our research


Selected publications

Staff and contact

Group leader

All members of the group

Contact and visit us

Contact information for the Wilhelm lab at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet.

Postal address

Karolinska Institutet
Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology
171 77 Stockholm

Visiting address (visitors, couriers, etc.)

Karolinska Institutet
Biomedicum, B7
Solnavägen 9
171 65 Solna

Delivery address (goods, parcels, etc.)

Tomtebodavägen 16
171 65 Solna

Where to find us



PhD students

  • Johanna Wolfsberger, PhD, Defended her thesis 2020-11-05
  • Ana Marin Navarro, PhD, Defended her thesis 2019-03-08
  • Habib Sakil, PhD, Defended his thesis 2017-10-05


  • Veronica Zubillaga, PhD, Postdoc 2019-2020
  • Marina Stantic, PhD, Postdoc 2012-2018, Assistant Professor 2018-2019
  • Evelyn Susanto, PhD, Postdoc 2013-2018

Project students 

  • Maria-Luisa Wiesinger, Master student, DKFZ Heidelberg University, 2021-2022
  • Maria Calvo Noriega, Master student, Karolinska Institutet, 2021-2022
  • Nicola Bell, Bachelor student, Hochschule Zitau/Görlitz, 2021
  • Paloma Araceli Ruiz de Castroviejo Teba, Master student, Karolinska Institutet, 2021
  • Elena Baldisseri, Project student, Karolinska Institutet, 2020
  • Silvia Schäfer, Master student, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany, 2020
  • Akhilesh Kapdi, Bachelor student, University of Applied Science Krems, 2019
  • Mark Tan Kia, Bachelor student, King's College London, 2019
  • Lennart Sänger, Master student, Martin Luther University Halle , 2018-2019
  • Okan Gültekin, Master student, Karolinska Institutet, 2018
  • Aitor Bermejo, Project student, Karolinska Institutet, 2018
  • Astrid van der Geest, Master student, Utrecht University, 2018
  • Stefanie Renken, Master student, Karolinska Institutet, 2017
  • Larsen Vornholz, Mater student, Karolinska Institutet, 2017
  • Janina Henze, Master student, Frankfurt University, 2017
  • Jonne Rietdjik, Master student, Radboud University, 2017
  • Marleen Meyer, Master student, 2015
  • Haizea Goni, Master student, Karolinska Institutet, 2015
  • Nikolina Giotopoulou, Master student, Karolinska Institutet, 2014
  • Jannis Kalkitsas, Master student, Karolinska Institutet, 2014
  • Trixy Fang, Master student, Karolinska Institutet, 2014
  • Atra Barsham, Master student, Karolinska Institutet, 2013
  • Elin Edsbäcker, Master student, Karolinska Institutet, 2013
  • Rafael Galupa, Master student, Karolinska Institutet, 2012
  • Anja Waldman, Master student, Lübeck University, 2012
  • Martina Czapko, Master student, 2011
  • Rebecca Khan, Bachelor student, Karolinska Institutet, 2011