Event information, the photo of Jani Huuhtanen, and the logos of UH and iCAN

Doctoral Defence: Jani Huuhtanen, Immunomonitoring in Cancer and Autoimmune Disorders at the Single-Cell level

When Jani Huuhtanen began his MD/PhD studies at the University of Helsinki, he realized there was a lack of people with the skills to analyze interesting “big data” generated using high-throughput sequencing methods. Deciding to learn how to analyze such big data himself, he incorporated studies in bioinformatics at Aalto University into his busy schedule, additionally seeking further knowledge from research visits to University of Cambridge and Stanford University.

Huuhtanen will defend his PhD thesis “Immunomonitoring in Cancer and Autoimmune Disorders at the Single-Cell Level” on Fri 24.5. at noon in Meilahti Bridge Hospital, Lecture Hall Kruununhaka. The thesis focuses on the immune system, particularly on how T cells recognize their targets and the T cell responses to immunological treatments.

A special interest was in immune checkpoint inhibitors in the treatment of metastatic melanoma. These drugs activate body’s own T cells against cancer, revolutionizing cancer treatment in 2010s. Unfortunately, only half of melanoma patients benefit from them and it would be clinically important to recognize these patients so that every patient can be treated right.

Huuhtanen’s hypothesis was simple: patients whose cancers contain T cells recognizing cancer will benefit from these inhibitors. Although the hypothesis was simple, recognizing the T cell targets is difficult. The breakthrough of the thesis was a new AI model developed that predicts what are the T cells targeting.

With this tool, the researchers were able to count how many T cell recognize melanoma and thus were able to predict melanoma from a blood test, predict melanoma recurrence and ultimately, response to immune checkpoint treatment. Validating this tool for clinical work requires further work, but it has already shown promise in detecting how other cancers could be tackled with the power of T cells.

iCAN wishes Jani Huuhtanen all the best in the future endeavours! 

What: Doctoral defense of Jani Huuhtanen “Immunomonitoring in Cancer and Autoimmune Disorders at the Single-Cell level”. The dissertation is available on Helda.

The thesis supervisors are professor Satu Mustjoki (University of Helsinki) and assistant professor Harri Lähdesmäki (Aalto University).

When: 24.5.2024 at 12

Where: Meilahti Bridge Hospital, Lecture Hall Kruununhaka, Haartmaninkatu 4.

Alternatively, you can follow the event via MS Teams with the meeting ID 368 990 392 857, access code 829Pen.

Opponent: Professor Catherine Wu, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston

Custos: Professor Satu Mustjoki, University of Helsinki

Contact: jani.huuhtanen@helsinki.fi

You are also welcome to iCAN science seminar on 23.5. with Huuhtanen’s custos Prof. Catherine Wu on Personalized Cancer Vaccines: Driving T cells into tumorRead more…