Researcher of the Month

Researcher of the Month is a series started in January 2023 where FCI's researchers are introduced.

December 2023

K. Albin Johansson Cancer Research Fellow Mika Kontro is a docent and a specialist in internal medicine and clinical hematology. He completed his specialization in hematology in 2012, defended his thesis on individualized treatment of acute leukemia in 2017 and obtained his docentship in hematology 2020.

Mika’s primary research focus is on improving treatment outcomes for acute myeloid leukemia (AML). During his specialization, he began to perceive the challenges related to leukemia treatment, prompting he to initiate research into personalized therapies. The aim of Mika’s doctoral thesis was to discover new treatments for patients with acute leukemia and he still continues on this path. Moreover, Mika works as the director of the nationwide Hematological Biobank that aims to support research in all kinds of hematological disorders.  

Clinical trials to improve treatment outcomes of hematological diseases

Currently, Mika’s main interest lies in the vast amount of data collected in his prospective multi-center AML trial, where the response for the Venotoclax treatment was studied (VenEx trial). By studying this data, Mika together with his group, Kontro Lab, aims to understand why some patients respond to treatment while others do not. This also enables the development of new treatments. Mika is deeply engaged in multiple international prospective trials, notably the low dose VenEx study derived from the VenEx trial. This research explores shortening treatment duration to lower toxicity and examines how ex vivo drug sensitivity correlates with patient responses. Additionally, Mika is actively involved in the BexMab trial, assessing Bexmarilimab, a novel agent for advanced myeloid malignancies. Seeing this trial to expand globally has been immensely rewarding for him.


Drug's efficacy in individual patients can be predicted in laboratory conditions

Mika and his team conducted the VenEx trial to assess how effectively venetoclax, a drug used to treat certain types of leukemia, could be predicted to work for individual patients using ex vivo testing. The study focused on AML patients who couldn't undergo intensive chemotherapy. The findings of the study revealed that testing the sensitivity of leukemia cells to venetoclax in different laboratory conditions accurately predicted the drug's efficacy. This suggests that such tests could aid doctors in predicting which patients might benefit from this treatment, especially when traditional chemotherapy is not feasible. These recent findings were published in Hematologica with the title Ex vivo venetoclax sensitivity testing predicts treatment response in acute myeloid leukemia. Moreover, Mika had the great privilege of presenting this work in December 2023 as an invited speaker at the esteemed American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting in San Diego during the Special Scientific Symposia titled Multiomics Precision Medicine for Blood Cancers.

Family and outdoor activities to counterweight work

Apart from his professional endeavors, Mika prioritizes spending time with his wife and two late-teen children. During his free time, Mika enjoys outdoor activities like hiking and winter sports, particularly downhill and cross-country skiing. Regrettably, Mika has had to sideline his favorite activity, freeskiing, for this winter due to a sports injury. 

Mika Kontro's research aims to improve treatment outcomes for especially patients with acute myeloid leukemia. He just presented results from the VenEx trial in esteemed ASH Annual Meeting as an invited speaker.