Satu Mustjoki, is principal investigator of the Mustjoki lab at the Hematology Research Unit Helsinki and director of the Translational Immunology research Program ( She is professor of Translational Hematology (University of Helsinki).

Kimmo Porkka, is a professor of Clinical Hematology and works as a chief physician at the Department of Hematology of the Helsinki University Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is responsible for clinical studies at the Hematology Research Unit Helsinki.

Tiina Kelkka, M.Sc, Ph.D. is a post-doctoral researcher who has specialized in mouse models of inflammation. Her work aims at elucidating the pathogenesis of LGL leukemia associated autoimmunity using mouse models of inflammation. She is also interested in somatic mutations’ capacity to modulate autoimmune inflammation. 

Mikko Keränen, M.D., Ph.D. is a postdoctoral researcher and also specializing in clinical hematology. He is interested in tumor immunology and immunotherapeutics of hematologic malignancies. He is currently investigating the role of clonal lymphocytes in patients with bone marrow failure syndromes. He is also supporting the research of PhD students in the group.

Karita Peltonen, M.Sc., Ph.D., received her Ph.D. in the field of cancer biology at University of Helsinki and continued her post-doctoral training at the Drug Research Program, University of Helsinki specializing in tumor antigen discovery. Her current research at HRUH aims for better understanding how tumor immune microenvironment and tumor cell-intrinsic factors influence tumor immunity and immunotherapy responses. She is especially interested in antigen-specific T-cell responses. 

Matti Kankainen, M.Sc, Ph.D. is a post-doctoral researcher specialized in computational genomics and a faculty bioinformatician at the division of Clinical and Medical Genetics Helsinki University Hospital and HUS diagnostic center. He has developed several computational frameworks for the analysis massively parallel sequencing data in clinical settings. His research efforts are focused on understanding carcinogenesis and cancer evolution of hematological malignancies and the role of microbes in triggering, promoting, and preventing the successful treatment of hematological malignancies.

Mikko Myllymäki, M.D., Ph.D., earned his degrees from University of Oulu in 2016. Before joining HRU in 2019, he did a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School focusing on stem cell transplantation for myelodysplastic syndrome. He is currently investigating how clonal hematopoiesis is related to human health. He is also specializing in clinical hematology.

Shady Awad, M.D., graduated from Cairo University Medical School in 2007 and then specialized in Clinical Pathology with sub-specialization in hemato-pathology. Since then he has been working in Cytogenetic lab of National Cancer Institute in Egypt where he finished his master thesis about pediatric ALL. He is currently doing his PhD studies at HRUH and his research is focusing on discovering driver mutations in high-risk CML patients.

Essi Laajala, M.Sc., started part-time in HRUH in May 2021, while still finalizing her Ph.D. in bioinformatics from the University of Turku and Aalto University, to be defended in December 2021. Her main expertize is on computational transcriptomics and epigenomics. At HRUH, she focuses on single-cell transcriptional mechanisms behind cancer cell resistance/sensitivity towards immunotherapies

Sara Gandolfi, M.D., Ph.D., graduated from Medical School at Università degli Studi di Milano in 2010 and obtained her Hematology specialization in 2016. During her post-doctoral fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School she studied the mechanisms of resistance to protein degraders (PROTACs) in multiple myeloma; she also focused on studying immune-evasion to natural killer cells in myeloma. Her research is mainly aimed at understanding the complex interplay between myeloma cells and immune-microenvironment, in order to find therapeutic targets to enhance patients’ immune-response, as well as biomarkers for better patient stratification and personalized treatment.

Heidi Haikala, Ph.D, In her PhD she studied oncogene-induced apoptotic sensitization and the effect of combination targeted and immunotherapies in breast cancer.

After obtaining her PhD she worked as a Research Fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Pasi Jänne in Dana-Farber Cancer Institute & Harvard Medical School. In Dr. Jänne’s lab, Heidi developed new targeted therapy strategies to prevent and reverse EGFR inhibitor resistance in lung cancer. One of her recent findings led to clinical trial in lung cancer patients. Her research utilizes innovative screening systems and patient tumor-derived ex vivo culture systems, microfluidic chip cultures, and co-culture systems of various cell types. 

Heidi has established her own research group adjacent to HRUH. Her lab studies how to target primary immunotherapy resistance and discover new targeted- and immunotherapy combinations for lung cancer patients. 

Perttu Koskenvesa, M.D., is a specialist in internal medicine and clinical hematology. He is a co-investigator in clinical studies and his research interest is the clinical use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors in hematological malignancies.

Oscar Brück, M.D., graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2016 and is currently doing his Ph.D. His research projects focuses on immunophenotyping of hematological and renal cancer as well as immunotherapy using therapeutic cancer vaccines.

Helena Hohtari, M.D., graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2013 and is currently specializing in internal medicine. She did her licentiate thesis in HRUH related to Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ ALL) and is now continuing PhD research on the same subject. The focus of her research lies in discovering safer and more effective ways of treating Ph+ ALL. 

Olli Dufva,  M.D., graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2020 and is currently doing his PhD. In his research, he uses CRISPR functional genomics, drug screening, and genomic data analysis to investigate immune responses to blood cancers.

Sofie Lundgren, M.D, graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2020 and is currently doing her Ph.D. The focus of her research is on T cell clonality and somatic mutations in patients with immune-mediated bone marrow failure and autoimmune disorders.

Henna Kasanen received her MSc in Molecular Medicine (University of Eastern Finland) in 2016. In 2017 she started her PhD studies in the University of Helsinki in the Doctoral Programme in Clinical Research. For her doctoral degree she is studying the comprehensive effects of new checkpoint inhibitor therapies to melanoma patients’ immune system, with special interest in the innate immune system cells. Henna’s projects involve skills in flow cytometry, in vitro functional assays, cytokine profiling, scRNAseq and CyTOF. Her main interests in research are cancer immunology, bioinformatics and translational medicine.

Daehong Kim, M.Sc., Ph.D student from Seoul, Korea. Previously, he has studied the therapeutic effects of natural antibiotic peptides in an ulcerative colitis and in Parkinson's disease. Now his research project is focusing on the mechanisms that cause somatic mutations in various types of hematologic malignancies and related autoimmune diseases.

Jani Huuhtanen, B.Med, bioinformatics student (Aalto-University), is an M.D./Ph.D. student interested in next-generation sequencing data, especially bulk RNAseq, single-cell RNAseq and TCRBseq data.  His projects include e.g. T-cell repertoire-analysis, building predicative transcriptomic models and inferring clinical information from genetic data to provide clinical implications for both tumour and autoimmune patients.


Moon Hee Lee, M.Sc. received her Master’s degree in Translational Medicine (University of Helsinki) in 2017 and Bachelor's degree in Life Science and Biotechnology at Yonsei University, South Korea, in 2012. Her PhD research project involves tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in renal cell carcinoma.

Dipabarna BhattacharyaM.Sc, received her Master’s degree (Majoring in genetics) from the university of Helsinki in 2017 and BTech degree in Biotechnology from India in the year 2014. Previously she has worked with GWAS and RNASEQ data analysis.  Her research is focused on understanding the role of the STAT3-pathway and somatic mutations in the regulation of autoimmune inflammation by combining wet lab methods to modern bioinformatics.

Sanna Timonen, M.Sc. (Biology), is a PhD student in the Doctoral Programme in Clinical Research. She enrolled in PhD training under the supervision of Prof. Satu Mustjoki and Prof. Tero Aittokallio in 2019. Sanna’s research aims to find novel individualized therapies for T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia patients by high-throughput drug screening, CRISPR-Cas9 experiments and meta-analyses.

Petra Nygren, B.Med, is an MD/PhD student at the University of Helsinki. At HRUH, she is investigating the molecular background of natural killer cell malignancies, as well as the potential of cancer drugs to synergize with natural killer cell immunotherapies.

Anita Kumari, MSc, received her Master’s degree in Drug Innovation (2020) and Bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences (2017) from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. At HRU she is researching the tumor immune microenvironment in renal cell carcinoma.

Hanna Duàn, M.Sc. received her M.Sc. in Engineering within Chemical Biology from Linköping University, Sweden, in 2019. Before joining the lab she worked for two years at AstraZeneca as a R&D Graduate Scientist. For her doctoral degree, Hanna is performing immunological profiling of hematological malignancies to determine the sensitivity of cancer cells to different immunotherapies.

Jonas Bouhlal, B.Sc., received his Bachelor’s degree in Medicinal Chemistry (University of Warwick) in 2020 and is currently in his final stages of completing a Master’s degree in Translational Medicine (University of Helsinki). His thesis project focuses on studying the potential of cancer drugs to synergize with natural killer cell immunotherapies and discovering underlying molecular mechanisms.

Aino Häkkinen is a second-year M.D. student with previous studies in Aalto University. She is developing her skills in bioinformatics and data analysis, mainly RNA-seq. Her current projects involve chronic myeloid leukemia and natural killer cell proliferations.

Ella Piekkari, B.Sc., received her Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology (University of Helsinki) in 2019. At HRU she is completing her Master’s thesis project focusing on novel therapy options for T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia.

Milla Alakuijala, B.Sc., received her Bachelor's degree in Computer Science (Aalto University) in 2019. Currently she is a second-year M.D. student and finalizing her Master's degree at Aalto. At HRU she is working on detecting clonal hematopoiesis from somatic mutations via versatile variant calling methods while combining her interests in medicine, bioinformatics and computer science.

Neja Sirc, BSc., received her Bachelor's degree in Chemistry (University of Helsinki) in 2019. She is currently in her final stages of completing a Master's degree in Translational Medicine (University of Helsinki) and is continuing in HRUH for her doctoral studies. Her research focuses on testing novel drugs for RA and studying the biological characterization of STAT3 mutation in LGL leukemia.

Hanna Lähteenmäki, M. Sc. joined the Hematology Research Unit in 2011 and works as a laboratory technician assisting in research projects and participating in laboratory maintenance.

Tiina Kasanen, Bachelor of Laboratory Services (Metropolia, University of Applied Sciences, 2008). She started in HRU in 2012 as a research technician; taking care of clinical samples, assisting research projects and taking part of Nord CML Study Group as a lab study coordinator.

Jay Klievink, M.Sc (Nutrition and Health), graduated from Wageningen UR, the Netherlands in 2011. Jay joined the HRU as a laboratory technician in 2016 and assists in research projects and general laboratory practices.

Minna Pajuportti has worked as a technician and study nurse in the Hematology Research Unit since 2004. She is responsible for many daily routines both in the lab and office, as well as answering to many questions related to clinical studies. Therefore she calls herself as Jokamies Jantunen.

Saara Vaalas is a clinical study coordinator administering activities associated with clinical drug studies. She assists in project planning, takes care of the daily routines and the patient visits. Additionally her job is to oversee accounts, maintain recordkeeping systems and develop procedures. She also is an administrator for the FHRB-registry ( and acts as the support person for the Finnish Leukemia Group guidelines website (

Jenni Hämäläinen, M.Soc.Sc, is the Project Coordinator for Hematology Research Unit. Jenni takes care of the non-scientific side of things, such as administration of research projects, coordination of grant applications and reporting as well as budget follow-up. She also handles HR matters, communication and meeting arrangements etc. when needed.

Eeva Lind-Ekholm is a part-time scientific secretary who works full-time as a secretary at the HUCH hematology division. She has more than 10 years of experience in clinical study administration and legislation. Eeva has been indispensable in getting the vast amount of paperwork done and submitted in good order and just before dead-line.

Jukka Vakkila, M.D., Ph.D. is a pediatric hematologist and a senior consultant in cancer immunology. He is participating in clinical trials dealing with immune system related drugs and supporting the research of PhD students in the group. His main interest is monitoring the tumor specific immunity and immune suppression in patients. 

Can Hekim, M.Sc., Ph.D. is a postdoctoral researcher who is specialized in biochemistry and molecular biology with main focus on tumor biology. His primary scientific interest is immunobiological mechanims in cancer progression. Currently, he investigates the off-target effect mechanisms of tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy. 

Sari Hernesniemi, M.Sc. (biochemistry), graduated at the University of Turku in 2008. The aim of her PhD research project is to characterize CML stem cells and to study the immunological effects of tyrosine kinase inhibitors on leukemic and normal cells. In November 2012 Sari had her thesis defense and title of her thesis was "Aberrant kinase activation as a therapy target: Chronic myeloid leukemia as a model disease". 

Peter Rohon, M.D. is a clinical hematologist from Olomouc University Hospital (Czech Republic). His research is related to immunological effects of CML therapy and recently he has been especially interested in the mechanisms of long-term remissions induced by interferon-α monotherapy. Peter defended his thesis in the University of Olomouc in 2010 and is continuing collaborating with our research group. 

Kati Penttinen, B.M. is a M.D. student in the University of Helsinki. Her research project was related to the molecular basis of LGL leukemia and it was part of her undergraduate studies.   

Sari Haavisto is a study nurse, who works mostly in the hematological out patient clinic in Meilahti hospital. She is also doing part time work in our unit related to company-sponsored clinical studies and helping with the CRFs. 

Sari Nikkola is a study nurse, who works mostly in the hematological ward in Meilahti hospital. She is also participating in the clinical studies and in the hematological registry project.   

Emmi Vakkila is a medical student and a part-time assistant in laboratory. Prior to medical school, she studied food chemistry and nutrition. Her licentiate thesis in medicine focuses on anti-leukemia immunity in CML. 

Jaakko Eskelinen, B.M. is a M.D. student in the University of Helsinki. His research project is related to somatic genetic changes in chronic phase CML patients and it is part of his undergraduate medical studies. 

Paavo Pietarinen, M.Sc. (Pharmacy), graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2012. Before starting his PhD project in HRU he worked on cancer drug database. His interests are pharmacogenomics and personalized drug treatment. He is currently focusing on drug responses in chronic and advanced phase chronic myeloid leukemia. 

Vanessa Rebecca Gasparini, B.Sc., Master's student coming from the University of Padova (Italy). Erasmus student that is doing her Master thesis focused on the functional characterization of STAT3 and STAT5b mutations discovered in large granular lymphocyte (LGL) leukemia. She is also validating novel somatic mutations discovered in STAT-mutation negative patients. 

Emma Andersson, M.Sc. graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2012 with human genetics as a major subject. Her research projects focus on discovering the pathogenetic events of rare hematological malignancies such as LGL-leukemia as well as finding new drug targets for patients suffering from T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia. 

Mohamed El Missiry, MB BCh, MSc. A Physician specialized in Hematology. His PhD work is involved in studying the role of immune cells in diagnosis, follow up and treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia.

Mette Ilander, Ph.D. received her doctoral degree from University of Helsinki 2016. Currently she is coordinating the biomarker studies which are run in conjunction with the clinical trials and has a special interest in tumor immunology.

Antti Lankinen is a biomedical engineering student at Imperial College London. His research was focused on developing computational methods for biomarker discovery and detection in acute myeloid leukemia from flow cytometry data.

Mika Kontro, M.D., PhD is a specialist in internal medicine and in clinical hematology in HUCH. He a is a co-investigator in clinical AML studies and his research is focused on novel drug screening and sequencing technologies for individualizing therapy in distinct entities of acute leukemia. He defended his Ph.D. thesis entitled "Individualizing therapy for acute leukemia" in September 2017.

Heikki Kuusanmäki, Ph.D., completed his PhD in September 2018 with the title: “Targeting Key Survival Signaling Pathways for the Treatment of Leukemia”. The main discovery of his PhD project was the identification of novel STAT5B mutations in two rare leukemia subtypes, LGL leukemia and T-ALL. During his PhD, Heikki also developed a flow cytometry-based drug-testing platform to assess primary AML sample sensitivities at a single cell resolution. His current interest is to use this platform to predict treatment outcomes in leukemia patients.

Paula Savola, M.D. started in HRUH in 2013, graduated as MD in 2018 and her PhD research project focuses on T-cell clonality and aqcuired mutations in patients with autoimmune disorders.

Hanna Rajala, M.D., Ph.D. is a post-doctoral researcher who did her PhD thesis related to LGL leukemia, which is a rare hematological malignancy. Hanna's thesis defense was in June 2014 and the title of the thesis was "Molecular pathogenesis of large granular lymphocytic leukemia". Currently Hanna is specializing in internal medicine and doing still research related to LGL leukemia and related autoimmune disorders.

Mikko Tyster, M.Sc (Tech) received his Master’s degree from the Lappeenranta University of Technology in 2012 and is currently an M.D. student at the University of Helsinki. His work at HRUH focuses on the characterization of the adaptive immune responses in aplastic anemia and related hematological conditions. His goal is to shed light on the underlying autoimmune mechanisms and develop improved diagnostic tools for clinical use.