Background and activities

Research activities

Our research is focused on understanding the role of transforming growth factor (TGF)-ß superfamily signaling pathways in multiple myeloma. This includes ligands such as TGF-ß, activins, BMPs and GDFs. There is extensive redundancy in this superfamily of ligands and receptors, and the effects of a given molecule will always depend on the context. Activation of the SMAD1/5 transcription factors by TGF-ß superfamily ligands induces apoptosis in myeloma cells by downregulating the oncogene c-MYC. We reviewed the role of BMP signaling in myeloma cell survival in 2014 (Figure 1). Potentiaion of SMAD1/5 activity represents therefore a possible treatment option for myeloma patients. We are also interested in the role of TGF-ß signaling in the context of the tumor microenvironment, particularly in relation to angiogenesis and dissemination. For this part we collaborate with the Bjørkøy group.

We welcome students that want to study regulation of signaling in the TGF-ß superfamily.


Figure 1. BMP signal transduction. (Reprinted from CGFR, Vol 25/Issue 3, Toril Holien and Anders Sundan, The role of bone morphogenetic proteins in myeloma cell survival, Pages No. 343-350, Copyright 2014, with permission from Elsevier)



Post doctor (multiple myeloma): Oddrun Elise Olsen

PhD student (breast cancer, Bjørkøy group): Camilla Wolowczyk

Master students (multiple myeloma):

Molecular Medicine 2016/17: Fekadu Alemu Atire, Samah Elsaadi

Pharmacy 2017/18: Thi Le, Fartun Hussein Ali

Erasmus Trainee student 2017: Marie-Thérèse Henke


Scientific, academic and artistic work

Displaying a selection of activities. See all publications in the database

Journal publications


  • Holien, Toril; Sundan, Anders; Waage, Anders; Børset, Magne. (2012) Bone morphogenetic proteins and MYC in multiple myeloma. 2012. ISBN 978-82-471-3353-8.
  • Johansen, Berit; Holien, Toril. (2006) Transfeksjon av myelomceller som et verktøy i studiet av vekstkontroll. 2006.