Learn more about our hospital’s staff: Chief Clinical Director Juha KononenCategories: Articles
Juha Kononen, MD and oncologist, who started at Docrates Cancer Center at the beginning of 2019, says that he likes his job. The environment and tools provided are excellent. Cooperation with other cancer treatment specialists is also seamless.
“I have really liked working here and I have felt motivated. There is sufficient time for patients and I can treat them in the best way possible,” says Kononen.
Kononen, who previously worked at the Central Finland Central Hospital, says that the quality of cancer treatment is good in the public sector as well.
“In the public sector, however, optimisation is required to provide everyone with good care. Unfortunately, this does not ensure the best possible treatment for every individual.”
Kononen shares an example of a patient that received help from Docrates even though their treatment in the public sector had already finished.
“The patient’s symptoms are currently under control and they have most likely received at least one year more to spend with their children and grandchildren. These stories make me genuinely pleased and happy and I feel like my efforts and the very existence of Docrates have a meaning. Without this place, the patient would not have received this extra time.”
Pioneers of individual care
For Juha Kononen, the best possible treatment of cancer means, first and foremost, individuality. That he can provide each patient with the best possible treatment for them at the right time. For this purpose, he uses information about the genetics of cancer. By examining the genes of a tumor, it is possible to determine which medication is suitable for the specific type of cancer the patient has. Conversely, with molecular profiling of the tumor, it is possible to avoid the modes of treatment that are not likely to help and cause adverse effects.
As the Chief Physician of Individual Cancer Treatment and Chief Clinical Director, Kononen’s duty is to keep track of what is happening in the world of science and introduce new methods and medications in a quick and agile fashion in order to make cancer treatment at Docrates even more individual.
“Bridging the gaps between science and practice has always been an important theme for me and something I have striven for,” he says.
The role of connecting the world of science and clinical environments comes naturally to Kononen as, after graduating, he worked for 14 years as a researcher in the United States and Switzerland. Kononen says that he has always had an inherent interest in researching and developing various things. Research captured the imagination of the young student on his very first course in medicine. He finished his dissertation while studying.
While working at the National Human Genome Research Institute in the United States, Kononen developed a method that revolutionised how tissue samples are analysed. Instead of taking a single sample, this method made it possible to analyse a thousand samples. The method became a huge success and it is still applied in various pathology laboratories around the world.
The key is in genetics
The method developed by Kononen also advanced research into the genetics of cancer, and led him to a small biotechnology company in Switzerland. The years were filled with development work and research, visiting exhibitions and travelling around the world, which ultimately became too taxing.
“They were busy years that demanded a lot. I decided to let go of it and return to Finland. I wanted my children to have roots in Finland, so we decided to move to Central Finland.”
In 2009, after returning home, Kononen decided to become a physician once again. As he had already published more than 60 articles about cancer research, his choice of specialty was obvious. Kononen graduated as an oncologist, after which he continued working as the Chief of the Department of Oncology at the Central Finland Central Hospital until he started at Docrates.
After nearly 25 years of experience as a physician and a researcher, Kononen believes that the most important thing he can provide his patients with is expertise.
“I think that a good treatment relationship cannot exist without it. However, it is also important to remain empathetic and treat patients as individuals. To think about what is really important in this situation and what could be helpful. It is important to remember that people rarely share the same priorities, resources and capabilities. Because of this, I try to understand everyone’s own personal situation and provide help based on this,” says Kononen.
And what about Kononen’s passion, research? It is no longer his primary duty, but he tries to allocate a few hours to it every week in addition to attending to patients. He is currently involved in developing the methodology for liquid biopsy as well as drug sensitivity tests.
“Cancer is something that concerns us all and it remains a major unsolved problem. The only way to advance is to gain an understanding of how cancers develop and change and the key to this is in genetics.”
“Whenever I face demanding cases and cancers that cannot be cured, research is my psychological coping mechanism that keeps me going. For me, it is important to be able to think that tomorrow will be brighter.”