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Affiliations

University of Helsinki, Department of Pathology and Department of Urology

Andrew Erickson

MSc (Med), PhD


Postdoctoral Researcher

My scientific career has been focused on studying the biology of prostate cancer and its implications for clinical treatment. Prostate cancer is the most common male solid cancer in western industrialized countries. While treatments for primary prostate cancer are effective in reducing mortality, the way patients are identified and diagnosed leads to many men being over diagnosed, and overtreated. Precision medicine is a concept wherein the right patient, is treated the right way, at the right time. Better understanding the underlying biology of prostate cancers will allow us to lay the ground work for precision medicine in prostate cancer by developing new treatments in the future but also potentially allowing us to improve diagnostics of patients in the short-to-medium term.

I joined NDS as a postdoctoral researcher to work with Alastair Lamb and others on the SPACE study. The chief aim of SPACE is to investigate biological changes in men with primary, metastatic prostate cancer. Recent studies have shown that prostate cancer is often a heterogeneous disease, with multiple different cancer clones, each with their own biological and clinical profile. Studying the biology of these cancer foci in tissues traditionally has focused on characterizing one gene or protein at a time: painstaking work considering the human genome has over 20,000 genes! A major promise of SPACE is to develop the use of a new method, called Spatial Transcriptomics, to identify the suspect prostate cancer tumour clones that give rise to metastases. Spatial transcriptomics is particularly promising, as the method generates orders of magnitude more information that previously utilized methods, allowing us to understand tumour biology in a less-biased way. Our hope is that the results of SPACE would lead to better understanding of prostate cancer tumour biology and metastasis, but also, a potential way to better diagnose, and thus treat prostate cancer patients.

Prior to joining NDS, I completed my Masters degree in Translational Medicine (TRANSMED) from the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine. During this time, I joined the research group of Dr Tuomas Mirtti in the Helsinki Urological Biobank, where I completed my Masters thesis work. During this time, I took a leave of absence to complete my obligatory civil service to the Republic of Finland, and worked as a research assistant in the Department of Urology with Dr Antti Rannikko. After completing my MSc studies, I was offered to continue in their group to pursue a PhD. I defended my PhD dissertation in May 2018, titled “In Search of Improved Outcome Prediction of Prostate Cancer – A Biological and Clinical Approach”. After defending, I briefly joined the research group of Dr Angelo de Marzo, John’s Hopkins University, Department of Pathology, to carry out a collaborative project between University of Helsinki and John’s Hopkins University in studying tumour immunology of prostate cancers.