Activities of the Finnish Cancer Institute in 2021


Supporting scientific research

In 2021, the Finnish Cancer Institute employed eight researchers: three research professors, three senior cancer researchers, and two cancer researchers. Researchers worked actively and progressed according to the submitted research plans. In 2021, the researchers published a total of 47 scientific, peer-reviewed articles and gained visibility at international conferences and symposia.

In August, a call for applications was launched for two post-doctoral cancer researchers who began their work on January 1, 2022. A total of 28 applications were received and the Scientific Advisory Board evaluated the applicants according to the criteria published in the call.

The researcher positions were funded with the donations from the Cancer Foundation Finland and K. Albin Johansson Foundation.


Finnish Cancer Institute Symposium

The Finnish Cancer Institute Symposium 2021 Cancer - Breaking Bad was organized in collaboration with BioCity in Turku in August. The two-day symposium was attended by a total of 570 listeners. The Eero Saksela Prize, a prize to highlight scientific merits together with international mobility, was awarded to docent Juha Väyrynen.


Other promotion of cancer research

National Cancer Center Finland (FICAN). A part of researchers working at the Finnish Cancer Institute are FICAN researchers. The aim is to make FICAN better known to the research community as well as to strengthen its visibility.

Statement. The Finnish Cancer Institute commented on the draft governmental proposal to Parliament for a new biobank law and some other related laws. In our opinion, we raised concerns on 1) the right of cancer patients to participate in medical research (Articles 10-14 of the Bill) and 2) how cancer researchers will get access on research materials (Articles 33-36 of the Bill) and made suggestions to improve both.

Model Country for Individual Cancer Treatment initiative. The initiative was carried out in active cooperation with the Association of Finnish Cancer Patients and pharmaceutical companies (AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, MSD, Pfizer, Roche and Takeda). The main messages and goals of the project were: 1) Finnish cancer treatment is equal, 2) effective treatment is rapidly available in Finland and 3) Finland offers a research environment that supports individual treatment. As part of the project, an event for parliamentarians was organized in November, highlighting key issues for Finnish cancer treatment and cancer research. In addition, a virtual event was organized in September in cooperation with the Helsinki Biobank and the iCAN research project. Project’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were actively used. At the end of 2021, four new companies joined the project.


Finance and fundraising

The funds of the Finnish Cancer Institute have been cost-effectively directed to cancer research in the form of salaries for researchers (520 400 euros in 2021). The Institute has only a part-time (50%) Managing Director and no office, laboratories, or buildings. The Board of Trustees and the Scientific Advisory Board are working without reward and the administrative costs are reasonable overall.

The Institute receives support in the form of a grant from the Cancer Foundation Finland (280 000 euros in 2021) and a donation from the K. Albin Johansson Foundation (350 730 euros in 2021). In addition to the four researcher positions, the Cancer Foundation Finland funds other activities of the Institute. The K. Albin Johansson Foundation's donation covers the salary costs of the K. Albin Johansson researchers. The Institute had no fundraising nor was involved in business activities. The companies involved in the Model Country initiative supported the project's activities with a total of 24 000 euros.


Administration, accounting, and auditing

The governing bodies the Finnish Cancer Institute are the Board of Trustees and the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). In 2021, the Board of Trustees consisted of 9 members (Tomi Mäkelä (Chair), Eero Heliövaara (Vice Chair), Leif Andersson, Stig Gustavson, Peeter Karihtala,Sakari Karjalainen, Pirkko-Liisa Kellokumpu-Lehtinen, Aki Lindén ja Christer Strömberg) and the SAB of 11 members (Vesa Kataja (Chair), Päivi Ojala (Vice Chair), Johanna Arola, Anssi Auvinen, Steve Bova, Sampsa Hautaniemi, Jyrki Heino, Sirpa Jalkanen, Jussi Koivunen, Sirpa Leppä, Arto Mannermaa, Jukka-Pekka Mecklin ja Lea Sistonen).  The Board of Trustees met 10 times and the SAB twice.

In July 2021, Tiina Vesterinen, who had acted as Secretory General since January 2021, was elected as the Managing Director of the Institute. Vesterinen started as the Managing Director on August 1, 2021. Accounting services were provided by Premium Accounting Oy. The Finnish Cancer Institute was audited by DHS Oy Audit Partners.  The appointed auditors were Tapani Vuopala, Authorized Public Accountant, and Matti Poutanen, Authorized Public Accountant.

The Institute’s communication and administration tools were updated with a creation of a website and with the introduction of electronic signature and billing programs. In addition, a reform of the rules was implemented. The main content of the reform included removal of the Large Advisory Board and addition of the managing director.


Activities for the current year 2022

The Finnish Cancer Institute is an independent actor with comprehensive medical, social, and national expertise. The maintenance of researcher positions is still seen as the main activity of the Institute. The number of researcher positions in the future will depend essentially on the Institute's resources and the financial support provided by the Cancer Foundation Finland and the K. Albin Johansson Foundation. During the year, it will be determined which researcher positions would be the most effective. The aim is to arrange a call on those in 2023–2024, as the provision of researcher positions will continue to be at the core of the Institute's activities.

The Institute is closely following the start-up and development of the National Cancer Center (FICAN) and its coordination center. The Institute could support FICAN's research activities, for example through the maintenance of co-funded researcher positions. In addition, the Institute's long experience in the public-private-patients collaboration model in the Model Country initiative could also serve as a model for FICAN.

This year, the most important object of influence of the Model Country initiative is the national cancer strategy in Finland. A national cancer strategy would serve as a plan on how to improve cancer care without forgetting the importance of cancer prevention, cancer screening and cancer research. It would set out proposals and recommendations for the development of cancer treatment infrastructure in a health-economically sustainable way by 2035.

To date, the Finnish Cancer Institute has organized 14 international research meetings that have found their place in the research community. This year's symposium Mission: Possible - Delivering Precision Cancer Medicine will be held on September 22-23, 2022, at Kalastajatorppa in Helsinki. The symposium is carried out in collaboration with the iCAN research project managed by the University of Helsinki and HUS.