Areas of expertise
Pirkko Härkönen graduated in medicine and received her PhD degree in experimental endocrinology at the University of Turku. She worked as postdoctoral fellow at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK), in London, UK (1985-1987). Since postdoctoral training, she worked in various positions at the Department of Anatomy, University of Turku and as Senior Researcher of Academy of Finland (1994-2000). In 2002, she received a position as Professor of Tumor Biology at Lund University, Sweden, and in 2010 as Professor of Medical Cell Biology at University of Turku. She also worked as Head of the Institute of Biomedicine (2010-2016). She retired from professor’s position in 2016 and presently works as researcher and senior specialist at the Institute of Biomedicine.
The research of Dr Härkönen has concerned growth mechanisms of human breast and prostate cancer using experimental in vivo and in vitro models and clinical tumor specimens. Recently, her group has concentrated on patient-derived models of breast and prostate cancer. She has particularly focused on the FGF/FGFR mediated tumor growth, progression and metastasis and the role of the FGF/FGFR pathways in hormonal regulation and development of hormone resistance. Prof. Härkönen has published more than 140 original research papers and she has supervised 21 completed doctoral theses. She has extensive experience in teaching students in the Medical and Dental curricula as well as in the Bachelor`s program and the International Master`s Degree program in the Biomedical Sciences. Besides several positions of trust, she was the first director of the National Drug Discovery Graduate School. She is a founding member of a drug discovery company and two contract research service companies (CROs). Her research group has critically contributed to discovery process of a drug now in clinical use (Osphena) and transfer of clinically relevant disease models to local spin-off companies.
Experience in teaching:
Cell biology, histology, and gross and clinical anatomy to medical and dental students
Basic pathology and microbiology in the curriculum of medicine (problem based learning)
Responsibility of and teaching in the courses of tumor biology and cell biology in the curricula of medicine and biomedicine
We study the role of the fibroblast growth factor (FGF)/FGF receptor
(FGFR) pathways in regulation of the growth, progression and metastasis in breast and prostate cancer using
experimental cell and tumor models, and clinical tumor specimens. Particular attention is paid to the role of FGF/FGFR pathways in hormonal regulation and development of endocrine resistance in breast and prostate cancer.
To develop new diagnostic methods, the applicability of tumor-specific glycoproteins on breast and prostate cancer cells as targets for novel molecularly imprinted synthetic probes is studied.
To obtain tools for finding and testing personalized treatments, we work to establish patient-derived in vitro and in vivo breast and prostate cancer models, including 2D and 3D cell cultures, explant cultures, and tumor and metastasis models.