Pirkko Härkönen
MD, PhD, Professor emer.

Senior Advisor, Institute of Biomedicine (Institute of Biomedicine)

+358 29 450 2244
+358 40 734 3520

Kiinamyllynkatu 10

Areas of expertise
Hormone-regulated cancer, selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM), in vitro and in vivo models for breast and prostate cancer


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.


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.


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

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Dovitinib dilactic acid reduces tumor growth and tumor-induced bone changes in an experimental breast cancer bone growth model (2019)
Journal of Bone Oncology
Tiina E. Kähkönen, Johanna M. Tuomela , Tove J. Grönroos, Jussi M. Halleen, Kaisa K. Ivaska , Pirkko L. Härkönen
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Alendronate-induced disruption of actin cytoskeleton and inhibition of migration/invasion are associated with cofilin downregulation in PC-3 prostate cancer cells (2018)
Virtanen S., Ishizu T., Sandholm J., Löyttyniemi E., Väänänen HK., Tuomela J., Härkönen P.
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Role of fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFR) and FGFR like-1 (FGFRL1) in mesenchymal stromal cell differentiation to osteoblasts and adipocytes (2018)
Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology
T. E. Kähkönen, K. K. Ivaska, M. Jian, K. G. Büki, H. K. Väänänen, P. Härkönen
A1 Journal article – refereed)

SERMs Promote Anti-Inflammatory Signaling and Phenotype of CD14+ Cells (2018)
Polari Lauri, Wiklund Anu, Sousa Sofia, Kangas Lauri, Linnanen Tero, Härkönen Pirkko, Määttä Jorma
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Breast cancer in neurofibromatosis type 1: overrepresentation of unfavourable prognostic factors (2017)
British Journal of Cancer
Uusitalo E, Kallionpää RA, Kurki S, Rantanen M, Pitkäniemi J, Kronqvist P, Härkönen P, Huovinen R, Carpen O, Pöyhönen M, Peltonen S, Peltonen J.
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Increased FGFRL1 expression is associated with prostate cancer progression (2017)
Cancer Research
Yu L., Toriseva M., Erickson A., Seikkula H., Nurmi M., Taimen P., Boström P., Mirtti T., Alanen K., Kallajoki M., Tuomela J., Nees M., Härkönen P.
O2 Other)

Oncolytic alphavirus SFV-VA7 efficiently eradicates subcutaneous and orthotopic human prostate tumours in mice (2017)
British Journal of Cancer
Martikainen M, Ruotsalainen J, Tuomela J, Härkönen P, Essand M, Heikkilä J, Hinkkanen A
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Comparison of the Effects of the Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators Ospemifene, Raloxifene, and Tamoxifen on Breast Tissue in Ex Vivo Culture (2016) Estrogen Receptors Natalija Eigeliene, Risto Erkkola, Pirkko Härkönen
B2 Book chapter)

Effects of ospemifene, a novel selective estrogen-receptor modulator, on human breast tissue ex vivo (2016)
Eigeliene N, Kangas L, Hellmer C, Kauko T, Erkkola R, Härkönen P
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Fam3c modulates osteogenic cell differentiation and affects bone volume and cortical bone mineral density (2016)
BoneKEy Reports
Määttä Jorma A., Bendre Ameya, Laanti Mervi, Buki Kalman G., Rantakari Pia, Tervola Paivi, Saarimäki Johanna, Poutanen Matti, Härkönen Pirkko, Väänänen Kalervo
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Increased expression of fibroblast growth factor 13 in prostate cancer is associated with shortened time to biochemical recurrence after radical prostatectomy (2016)
International Journal of Cancer
Yu L, Toriseva M, Tuomala M, Seikkula H, Elo T, Tuomela J, Kallajoki M, Mirtti T, Taimen P, Bostrom PJ, Alanen K, Nurmi M, Nees M, Harkonen P
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Spheroid culture of LuCaP 136 patient-derived xenograft enables versatile preclinical models of prostate cancer (2016)
Clinical and Experimental Metastasis
Valta MP, Zhao HJ, Saar M, Tuomela J, Nolley R, Linxweiler J, Sandholm J, Lehtimaki J, Harkonen P, Coleman I, Nelson PS, Corey E, Peehl DM
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Toll-like receptor 9 expression is associated with breast cancer sensitivity to the growth inhibitory effects of bisphosphonates in vitro and in vivo (2016)
Sandholm J, Lehtimäki J, Ishizu T, Velu SE, Clark J, Härkönen P, Jukkola-Vuorinen A, Schrey A, Harris KW, Tuomela JM, Selander KS
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Induction of morphological changes in death-induced cancer cells monitored by holographic microscopy (2015)
Journal of Structural Biology
El-Schich Z, Molder A, Tassidis H, Harkonen P, Miniotis MF, Wingren AG
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Pim kinases and Pim inhibitors in the regulation of prostate cancer cell migration and invasion (2015)
Cancer Research
Eerola S, Santio N, Tuomela J, Rainio EM, Moreau P, Anizon F, Corthals G, Harkonen P, Koskinen P
O2 Other)

Pim Kinases Promote Migration and Metastatic Growth of Prostate Cancer Xenografts (2015)
Santio NM, Eerola SK, Paatero I, Yli-Kauhaluoma J, Anizon F, Moreau P, Tuomela J, Harkonen P, Koskinen PJ
A1 Journal article – refereed)

TLR9 kolmoisnegatiivisen rintasyövän ennusteellisena tekijänä ja uutena biomarkkerina (2015)
Milla Vainio, Minna Vuorenmaa, Jaakko Lehtimäki, Jouko Sandholm, Pirkko Härkönen, Johanna Tuomela
D1 Article in a trade journal)

Adenosine Inhibits Tumor Cell Invasion via Receptor-Independent Mechanisms. (2014)
Molecular Cancer Research
Virtanen SS, Kukkonen-Macchi A, Vainio M, Elima K, Härkönen PL, Jalkanen S, Yegutkin GG
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Deficiency of ERβ and prostate tumorigenesis in FGF8b transgenic mice (2014)
Endocrine-Related Cancer
Teresa Elo, Lan Yu, Eeva Valve, Sari Mäkelä, Pirkko Härkönen
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Effects of Ospemifene on Breast Tissue Morphology and Proliferation: A Comparative Study Versus Other Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators in Ovariectomized Rats (2014)
Hormone and Metabolic Research
Kangas L, Harkonen P, Vaananen K, Keskitalo J, Eigeliene N
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Last updated on 2019-26-08 at 02:19