Hematology and oncology

There are over 200 cancers that affect children. In Finland, around 150 new cases are diagnosed each year. Leukemia is the most common form of cancer in childhood followed by the tumors of the central nervous system. Although the prognosis of children with cancer has markedly improved during the last decades, there are still many tumor types with poor prognosis. Various treatments cause both short- and long-term side-effects, and therefore new treatments with higher specificity towards cancerous cells are needed. Within the hemato-oncology section, we are performing basic research on pediatric leukemias and brain tumors, and aim at studying the mechanisms of tumorigenesis and developing new strategies for treatment of patients.

Group leader
Docent Olli Lohi, email: olli.lohi(at)tuni.fi

Home page:


Reserch themes

Childhood leukemias

It is now well established that cancers develop through the accumulation of genetic and epigenetic alterations. A hallmark of acute leukemia is aberrant fusion genes which alone are unable to cause the disease but predispose the carriers for the onset of disease in acquisition of additional genetic or epigenetic lesions. This is best exemplified by the TEL-AML1 fusion gene, the most common genetic abnormality detected in pediatric acute leukemia (25%), which serves as a “first-hit” mutation, and requires secondary hits for the onset of the disease. Although the prognosis of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemias has improved dramatically during the past decades, some subgroups fare poorly and around 15% of patients still relapse. Furthermore, even patients with excellent prognosis are treated with a lengthy chemotherapeutic regimen.

The Hemato-Oncology Research Group, HemoRes, is a translational research group studying the molecular mechanisms that lead to the onset and maintenance of pediatric leukemias. We focus on the molecular mechanisms that initiate and propagate acute lymphoblastic leukemias by using a wide range of genetic, molecular, cellular and bioinformatics tools. To model diseases, we utilize leukemia cell lines, patient samples and zebrafish animal models. We think that better understanding of molecular details of leukemogenesis and the disease-triggering insults will help in distinguishing patients with increased relapse risk, and in tailoring treatment according to risk grouping, and also in planning the preventive strategies.

The basic research takes place in the Tampere Center for Child Health Research in Tampere University and Tampere University Hospital (building FM-3). The zebrafish studies are performed in the Zebrafish Facility located nearby in the BioMeditech (Tampere University).

Olli Lohi, group leader
PhD, MD, Chief of Hematology & Oncology Division
Email: olli.lohi(at)uta.fi

Toni Grönroos (MSc, PhD student)
Susanna Teppo (MSc, PhD student)
Saara Laukkanen (MSc, PhD student)
Laura Oksa (MSc, PhD student)
Thomas Liuksiala (MSc, PhD student)
Miikka Vuotilainen (Biotechnology student, PhD student)
Atte Nikkilä (Medical student, PhD student)
Artturi Mäkinen (MD, PhD student, Consultant in Pathology)
Jorma Kulmala (laboratorian, part-time)

Visiting address

Arvo Ylpön katu 34
33520 Tampere
Tel: +358 50 3186254

Research projects

Genetic profiling of acute leukemias by GRO-seq and ChIP-seq analyses and microarrays
Drug repurposing in high-risk pediatric acute leukemias
Leukemia and microenvironment: co-culture with stromal cells coupled to global genetic analyses
Molecular mechanism of TEL-AML1-positive leukemias
Leukemia modeling in zebrafish

Pediatric brain tumors

Brain tumors are the second most common cancer type in children. It is still the most common cause of juvenile cancer death. Cancer is known to be a disease of the genome but the exact biological mechanisms behind brain tumorigenesis remain unclear and the prognosis of patients remains poor especially in case of most malignant tumors. The main treatment modality is neurosurgery, and patients are also treated with chemo- and radiotherapy.

In the study group we investigate patients with new brain tumors to better understand the individual tumor biology and heterogenity. Our aim is to find novel biomarkers using the tumor material received through neurosurgery. Promising target molecules for therapeutic interventions will also be investigated.

The basic research takes place in the Tampere Center for Child Health Research in Tampere University and Tampere University Hospital.

Group leader

Kristiina Nordfors, PhD, MD, Specialising Physician

Department of Pediatrics, Tampere University Hospital

Email: kristiina.nordfors(at)gmail.com


Olli Lohi, PhD, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Pediatrician, Department of Pediatrics, Tampere University Hospital
Hannu Haapasalo, PhD, MD, Chief of Department, Fimlab, Adjunct professor, Department of Pathology
Timo Nykter, PhD, MSc, Professor, Institute of Biomedical Technology, Tampere University
Kirsi Granberg, PhD, MSc, Senior scientist, Tampere University
Pauli Helén, PhD, MD, Chief physician, Unit of Neurosurgery, Tampere University Hospital
Joonas Haapasalo, PhD, MD, Specialising Physician, Unit of Neurosurgery, Tampere University Hospital
Ylermi Soini, PhD, MD, Professor, Department of Pathology, University of Eastern Finland
Seppo Parkkila, Professor, Department of Anatomy, University of Tampere

Research news

Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation granted a donation for PhD Olli Lohi

Geenit kertovat syövän käyttäytymisestä (17.12.2013) – PDF

Olli Lohi awarded by the Foundation for Pediatric Research