Cancer Foundation Finland awarded €7.5m in grants for Finnish cancer research

Cancer Foundation Finland awarded a record 7.5 million euros in grants for cancer research in 2023, which marks the Foundation’s 75th anniversary. Three projects received the Cancer Foundation’s major grants: Lauri Aaltonen’s research project, Sakari Vanharanta’s research project and the FINPROVE research network headed by Katriina Jalkanen. The Foundation also awarded several large research grants for research into various cancer diseases and fundamental cancer research.

The annual donations the Cancer Foundation receives provide a wide range of support for cancer research projects. This year, the Cancer Foundation received a total of 260 applications and awarded funding to 102 researchers or research teams.

The Foundation received 180 applications for research grants, including 31 applications for the major grants. In all, 64 projects were funded. Of these, three projects were awarded major grants: two major grants of 450,000 euros and one major grant of 300,000 euros. The Foundation received 80 applications for dissertation grants, and funded 38 of them.

The total funding distributed comes to 7,474,883 euros, which is more than last year and more than ever before in the history of the Cancer Foundation’s grants.

Applications with a basic and clinical (patient-centred) research focus were both reviewed in almost equal numbers, with clinical and basic research projects receiving funding in roughly equal proportions.

Personalised cancer treatment a growing megatrend

The Cancer Foundation received a great deal of applications this year, the most in more than ten years.

  • Jarmo Wahlfors, Research Director of the Cancer Foundation, said: “The quality of applications was again very good. Although we did fund more than a third of the applications submitted this year, a regrettably large number of interesting and high-level projects could not be funded despite the record sum.”
  • Wahlfors added: “A common and recurring trend in the funded research projects was research into diagnostics and thereby more effective and safer treatments. Personalised cancer treatment is a clear megatrend in cancer research, with computational methods and artificial intelligence becoming more important every year. Nearly one in three projects funded this year is related in some way to precision diagnostics.”

The annual donations the Cancer Foundation receives provide a wide range of support for cancer research projects. As in previous years, most of the funding was allocated to basic cancer research, which does not focus on any particular type of cancer and lays the foundations for future breakthroughs and effective treatments, thus benefiting all people with cancer in the long term. Research focusing on prostate, breast and ovarian cancer and leukaemia also secured a considerable amount of funding this year.

Three major grants

A three-year major grant worth 450,000 euros from the Pink Ribbon Fund was awarded to Academy Professor Lauri Aaltonen (University of Helsinki) for his research project “Hairless gene and vitamin D receptor in regulation of MYC and genesis of colorectal cancer”, which is aimed at identifying the molecular causes of colorectal cancer and testing the hypothesis that vitamin D plays a role in cancer development.

A three-year major grant worth 450,000 euros was awarded to Associate Professor Sakari Vanharanta (University of Helsinki) for his research project ”Transcriptional lineage factors in renal cancer maintenance”. The project will use kidney cancer as a model to identify gene expression molecules that are specific to different tissues and whose activity can gradually lead to cancer-causing mutations in cell DNA.

A three-year major grant worth 300,000 euros was awarded to a research network coordinated by Head Physician and Associate Professor Katriina Jalkanen (Helsinki University Hospital) for the project “Molecular biomarkers for patients receiving targeted cancer treatments in the FINPROVE – trial”. The grant was awarded to the FINPROVE consortium, which is a clinical, patient-centred and nationwide research project involving more than 40 researchers and research assistants from all university hospitals in Finland. The patients involved in the study will be molecularly profiled in order to find the most effective and safest treatment for their particular cancer. The project will provide targeted treatment for more than 80 patients.

The Cancer Foundation also awarded grants to other significant research projects. The funding decisions again focused on multi-year funding periods, which allow established teams to engage in longer-term and more predictable research. The Foundation also considers it important to support a sufficient number of different groups even with shorter funding periods, in order to ensure diversity in Finnish cancer research.

  • Wahlfors said: “Long-term funding reduces the workload associated with securing funding for the research so that the researchers can focus on their research projects. Research is the only way we can beat cancer.”

Further information:

Research Director Jarmo Wahlfors, Cancer Foundation Finland, [email protected], tel. +358 50 410 1456

Academy Professor Lauri Aaltonen, University of Helsinki, [email protected], tel. +358 50 401 6099

Associate Professor Sakari Vanharanta, University of Helsinki, [email protected], tel. +358 50 433 2200

Head Physician, Associate Professor Katriina Jalkanen, Helsinki University Hospital, [email protected], tel. +358 40 144 0338

The Cancer Society of Finland consists of 12 regional cancer societies and six national patient organizations. The CSF maintains the Finnish Cancer Registry. Cancer Foundation Finland is a charitable organization and the main private funder of cancer research in the country.