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News 14.05.2020

Internationally significant cancer treatment project Cancer IO begins

The Cancer IO project brings together a considerable amount of Finnish expertise in immunotherapy. The aim of the project is to make immunotherapy for cancer more effective and to support the introduction of these new treatments in healthcare.

The project is coordinated by the University of Helsinki and the partners are the University of Turku, Helsinki University Hospital (HUS), Turku University Hospital (TAYS), Oulu University Hospital (OYS) and Vaasa Central Hospital, as well as eight Finnish companies. The network also includes several patient organisations and nine large pharmaceutical companies investing in immunotherapy.

Cancer IO is one of the largest projects in Europe focusing on immunotherapy for cancer. Business Finland has provided a total of EUR 4.8 million in funding to the Finnish companies and universities in the project. The total budget of the project is approximately EUR 10 million.

“With the Cancer IO project, Finland stands out as one of the leading countries in cancer treatment research and personalised medicine. The project is expected to bring a very significant amount of business to Finland and will strengthen the knowledge base and develop health services. The project is an excellent example of broad-based public-private cooperation, and will benefit all the parties involved”, says Business Finland health and wellbeing theme director Minna Hendolin.

Immunotherapy for cancer, i.e. immuno-oncology (IO), is rapidly becoming the new cornerstone for cancer treatment alongside traditional surgery and medications. However, IO differs from all other existing treatments in that IO treatment is not intended to directly destroy cancer cells but rather to stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.

“Immunotherapy can be a completely transformational option for some patients”, says Pirkanmaa Hospital District research director Tarja Laitinen. “We do not yet fully understand which patients benefit from treatments and which patients develop negative side effects. For this reason, projects such as Cancer IO are extremely important. Hospitals have invested in Tietoallas data pools, harmonisation of patient data and information services. Therefore, the project is now possible and patient data is securely accessible to researchers. In recent years, the hospitals have also invested in electronic communication with patients. As a result, the problems reported by patients during and after treatment take the patient’s perspective into account better than before”.

Cancer IO is part of Business Finland’s Personalized Health Finland programme.

For further information, contact:

Outi Tuovila
Senior Adviser
Puh. +358 50 3392 542
outi.tuovila (at)

Minna Hendolin
Senior Director, Health and Wellbeing
Mobile +358 50 5577 665
minna.hendolin (at)