Improving the outcomes of children with cancer

Many new options: stem cell transplantation and immune therapy

Prof. Dr. Ingo Müller

»We explore individualized approaches in blood stem cell transplantation and immune therapy in order to develop a tailored therapy for our high-risk patients.«

The starting point for our research is not the patient’s individual clinical picture but rather stem cell transplantation as a medical therapeutic method. It can be adapted to the individual needs of the patient and his or her disease pattern, so that the risk incurred is matched to the situation of our patients and kept as low as possible. Stem cell transplantation is already in itself an immune therapy, but through the new immune system it also offers a platform to follow up with an individualized immune therapy whenever required.

We are especially interested in haploidentical stem cell transplantation, in which a parent acts as a donor. We have been able to demonstrate, for example, that mothers are better donors than fathers if fetal cells transferred to the mother during pregnancy still exist in the maternal peripheral blood. We have been able to detect fetal cells decades after delivery. Now we are seeking to gain a better understanding of the immunological mechanisms in order to harness them more effectively.

Solid tumors are also often life‐threatening for children. One of the most frequent forms is neuroblastoma, which frequently is only detected at a very advanced stage. Even the most intensive chemotherapy sometimes fails to eliminate the tumor. Interestingly, antibodies have been found against this tumor in the sera of healthy individuals without their realizing it. We are trying to purify these antibodies, decipher their amino acid sequence and ultimately utilize them in neuroblastoma therapy.

Ingo Müller completed his studies in biochemistry and medicine in Tübingen, which included a one-year program at Harvard University (Boston, USA) as well as a diploma thesis at King’s College in London (UK). In 1998, he earned his PhD in the field of medicine and began his residency in the Department of Pediatrics, University Children's Hospital in Tübingen, interrupting his residency program for a two-year research stay at the renowned St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis (USA). Since that time his research interest has focused on blood stem cell transplantation and its immunological implications, as well as the opportunities for using this method against various illnesses. After completing a post-doctoral lecturing qualification (Habilitation) and following clinical experience as a senior physician, in 2010 Ingo Müller became head of the Stem Cell Transplantation Unit in the Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and established key projects of his working group at the Research Institute Children's Cancer Center Hamburg.

German Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Hamburg Research and Science Foundation

German Research Foundation (Dr. Kerstin Cornils)

Lehmberg, K., Albert, M. H., Beier, R., Beutel, K., Gruhn, B., Kröger, N., Meisel, R., Schulz, A., Stachel, D., Woessmann, W., Janka, G., Müller, I. (2014). Treosulfan-based conditioning regimen for children and adolescents with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. Haematologica, 99:180-4.

Gieseke, F., Böhringer, J., Bussolari, R., Dominici, M., Handgretinger, R., Müller, I. (2010). Human multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells employ galectin-1 to inhibit immune effector cells. Blood. 116:3770-9.

Müller, I., Vaegler, M., Holzwarth, C., Tzaribachev, N., Pfister, S. M., Schütt, B., Reize, P., Greil, J., Handgretinger, R., Rudert, R. (2008). Secretion of angiogenic proteins by human multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells and their clinical potential in the treatment of avascular osteonecrosis. Leukemia. 22:2054-61.

Müller, I., Kordowich, S., Holzwarth, C., Isensee, G., Lang, P., Neunhoeffer, F., Dominici, M., Greil, J., Handgretinger, R. (2008). Application of multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells in pediatric patients following allogeneic stem cell transplantation. Blood Cells Mol. Dis. 40:25-32.

Gieseke, F., Viebahn, S., Koscielniak, E., Friedrich, W., Handgretinger, R., Müller, I. (2007). Human multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells inhibit proliferation of PBMC independently of IFNγR1-mediated IFNγ signaling and IDO expression. Blood. 110:2197-200.

Müller, I., Kordowich, S., Holzwarth, C., Spano, C., Isensee, G., Staiber, A., Viebahn, S., Gieseke, F., Langer, H., Gawaz, M. P., Horwitz, E. M., Conte, P., Handgretinger, R., Dominici, M. (2006). Animal Serum-Free Culture Conditions for Isolation and Expansion of Multipotent Mesenchymal Stromal Cells from Human Bone Marrow. Cytotherapy. 8:437-44. 

Complete List of Publications: Pubmed

Prof. Dr. Ingo Müller

Research Group Leader Immune Therapy
Phone: +49 (0) 40 / 74105-2720

Isabelle Bley

M.Sc. Human- and Molecularbiology, PhD student
Phone: +49(0)40 / 42605-1271


PD Dr. Kerstin Cornils

Postdoctoral fellow
Phone: +49 (0) 40 / 7410-52721

Frauke Gotzhein

M.Sc. Molecular Life Sciences, PhD student
Phone: +49 -(0)40 / 42605-1225


Marianne Klokow

Biological Technical Assistant
Phone: +49 (0) 40 / 42605-1271

Yandamé Stefanie Möller

Physician, PhD student
Phone: +49(0)40 / 42605-1272

Johannes Polke

Physician, PhD student
Phone: +49 (0) 40 / 42605-1225


Laura Rekowski

M.Sc. Molecular Medicine, PhD student
Phone: +49(0)40 / 42605-1272

Dr. Benjamin Schattling

Postdoctoral fellow
Phone: +49 (0) 42605-1271


Dr. Kerstin Schütze

Clinician Scientist
Phone: +49 (0) 40 / 42605-1271



Charlotte Wessolowski

Physician, PhD student
Phone: +49 (0) 40 / 42605-1225