Dr. Kristiina Vuori of La Jolla takes a lead in the cancer research field


Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D. is a professor, Pauline & Stanley Foster Presidential Chair, and president and interim CEO of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. For the past 10 years, she has also served as director of Sanford-Burnham’s National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, a post she will hand over on May 1.

Under her direction, the Cancer Center underwent a five-year renewal project in 2010 with an “Outstanding” rating and an increase in grant funding. Dr. Vuori is part of the Stand Up to Cancer “Dream Team,” has served on several NIH and Department of Defense study sections, and serves on the boards of the American Association for Cancer Research and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Her research focus is unraveling the molecular mechanisms of cancer metastasis.

What brought you to La Jolla?

That would be the opportunity to work at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (then La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation), one of the world’s leading medical research institutes. Although it was much smaller then, it was on the cutting edge of cancer research and I knew it would only grow. I was attracted to its entrepreneurial spirit and culture of collaboration. I began as a postdoctoral researcher and my career has evolved hand-in-hand with the Institute.

What might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I’d bring in massive amounts of philanthropic dollars, venture capital funding and pharmaceutical company investments to further enhance the research, technology and innovation industry opportunities in La Jolla and Torrey Pines Mesa.

Who or what inspires you?

My family, the faculty and staff I serve at the Institute and our supporters, and the patients that our medical research benefits.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

I would invite the following true pioneers in their fields: Neil Armstrong, Marie Curie, Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin, Amelia Earhart, Steve Jobs, Abraham Lincoln, and Thurgood Marshall.

What are you reading?

I recently finished “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It is an illuminating book that provides clarity, and hope, to those seeking to demystify cancer.

What is it that you most dislike?


What is your most-prized possession?

The relationship I have with my family.

What do you do for fun?

Ask me when I retire! I enjoy hiking, skiing, traveling the world, discovering new restaurants, attending my son’s travel team baseball games, and cheering for the Padres!

What is your philosophy of life?

Give back more than you’ve taken, and listen more than you’ve said.

What would be your dream vacation?

It is hard to beat time off in La Jolla, of course, but I definitely enjoy summer (not winter!) vacations in my native Finland with its lakes, saunas and midnight sun.