Kim Vettenranta

Cell therapy for severe pediatric diseases

Professor of Cell Therapy and Transfusion Medicine, Kim Vettenranta, MD, PhD, and his group study the use and applicability of targeted cell therapies among children with cancer and severe immunological diseases. The group also targets the introduction of immunological donor tolerance through haploidentical stem cell transplantation among recipients of living-donor kidney transplants. Both groups cooperate with the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service.

Vettenranta’s group studies so-called natural killer cells (NK cells) in allogeneic stem cell transplantation as well as their applicability in modern, targeted cell therapies.

– We take particular interest in the possibility of using NK cells produced from the cord (CB) or peripheral blood of third parties in patients with leukemia or other cancers, also without the allogeneic bone marrow transplantation, Vettenranta explains.

In his opinion, it is particularly fascinating to determine whether cord blood units may be used to produce an NK product which is employable in pediatric patients in the treatment of acute myeloid and lymphoblastic leukemia with a poor prognosis. In adults, this is studied not only for lymphoblastic leukemia but also for multiple myeloma.

Does the future in cancer care lie with CAR-equipped cell therapy?

A cure for pediatric cancers with a particularly poor prognosis, neuroblastoma and sarcomas, is also being sought.

The aim of the group and its cell therapy and research programme is to produce genetically manipulated CAR-NK cells for both adult and pediatric patients in close collaboration with the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service (FRCBS) laboratory. The group includes some of Finland’s leading experts in HLA and NK cells.

The other focus of interest in the group is tolerance provided by a haploidentical stem cell transplant in pediatric patients receiving a kidney transplant from their parent at a very early age. The joint venture includes the renal disease and transplantation group of Professor Hannu Jalanko and Docent Timo Jahnukainen as well as Docent Samppa Ryhänen from the group for blood and oncological diseases and stem cell transplantations of the Children’s Hospital.

– We would like to develop a treatment avoiding the risks involved in the long-term immunosuppressive therapy following renal transplantation. Again, the tolerance and immunity are studied in close collaboration with the Blood Service researchers.
In their PhD projects, two future pediatricians from Kim Vettenranta’s previous research group study the immunological complications and recovery related to childhood allogeneic stem cell transplants.

Contact details

Kim Vettenranta
University of Helsinki, the Children’s Hospital, the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service