Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the western world. Approximately one-third of all adults will face cancer diagnosis during their lifetime, creating an urgent need for more efficient cancer therapies. The current therapies for these diseases are often insufficient, unsuccessful or not suitable for all patients. The recent burst of publicly available knowledge on genomic alterations in cancers, together with the sharp increase in targeted cancer therapies, particularly immunotherapies, have created unprecedented possibilities to rapidly identify more effective personalized cancer treatments.
The Translational Cancer Biology laboratory, led by Academy Professor Kari Alitalo, aims to discover novel mechanisms and drug targets in cancer that contribute to the design of more efficient treatment options for personalized cancer therapy. These new opportunities can only be translated to patient benefit if preclinical stage validation can be performed in tumor models that correctly mimic the extraordinary complexity and heterogeneity of tumors, permitting the discovery and validation of biomarker signatures that associate with the drug efficacy profiles of individual patients.
Research in the laboratory focuses on cancer stem cells, tumor heterogeneity and tumor microenvironment. The laboratory has revealed a number of new disease-related functions of vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs), angiopoietins, angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis. The goal is to use this knowledge for establishment of preclinical models for more effective targeted therapies on these diseases. The wide international network of the Alitalo laboratory and its location in the multidisciplinary Academic Medical Center Helsinki are uniquely suited for breakthrough discoveries.