Dr. Kari Alitalo, Haartman Institute, Helsingin Yliopisto, Finland
Dr. Kari Alitalo is a tenured Research Professor of the Finnish Academy of Sciences and Director of the Centre of Excellence in the Biomedicum Helsinki research institute of the University of Helsinki. He obtained M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Helsinki in Finland. During his postdoctoral period he worked with Drs. Michael Bishop and Harold Varmus in San Francisco, where he characterized the v-myc oncogene and oncoprotein and discovered oncogene amplification in homogeneously staining chromosomal regions of tumor cells. After his return to Finland he has isolated and characterized several tyrosine kinases including VEGFR-3, purified and cloned its ligand, the first lymphangiogenic growth factor VEGF-C, and showed that the VEGF-C - VEGFR-3 pathway is required for lymphangiogenesis. He also cloned and characterized of the Tie1 receptor, and the VEGF-B growth factor in collaboration with Dr. Ulf Eriksson. He has devised molecular therapies for lymphedema that are now entering clinical trials. His studies led to the demonstration of VEGF-C induced tumor angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis, intralymphatic tumor growth, and VEGF-C association with tumor metastasis and its inhibition by blocking the VEGFR-3 signal transduction pathway. The inhibitors of these pathways have entered phase I clinical trials; also VEGF-C is now entering clinical trials for the treatment of lymphedema.
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