Kimmo Porkka's project team harnesses the latest technologies to implement personalised therapies

Chief Researcher and Head Physician Kimmo Porkka and his project team at Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) Comprehensive Cancer Center belong to the collaborative project developing the diagnostics and treatment of acute leukemia. In this multidisciplinary CleverHealth Network project, the partners pilot advanced in-depth profiling of disease cells, HUS datalakes and processes utilizing latest technologies. The project aims to personalise the treatment for cancer patients and productise the project results also to international markets. 

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CleverHealth Network is an innovation ecosystem processing and cultivating health and welfare data. It is funded by Business Finland and its member organisations. The ecosystem, consisting of companies and health care experts work together to develop world-class solutions based on the cultivation of healthcare data to solve clinical challenges. The aim is to create better care for patients and export product and service innovations developed by Finnish companies. The Treatment of acute leukemia project is part of the eCare for Me project consortium where HUS partners with TietoEVRY, Aiforia, Intito and Kaiku Health.

The project partners utilize the possibilities brought by Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and neural networks to discover predictive data. The HUS patient datalakes contain vast amounts of data, but to analyse the data effectively and accurately can be challenging. First, the data needs to be structured and harmonised, and the integration of different data sources needs to be made automatic. The Treatment of acute leukemia project seeks for more efficient and faster methods to utilize data in the treatment of patients.

When clinicians want to discover predictive data related to various disease variants of, for example, acute leukemia, AI can be harnessed to mine large amounts of data. In these cases, the patients can be enrolled more effectively to clinical drug trials or personalised treatment. The project results have indicated that the personalised treatment has extended the lifespan of those patients with acute myeloid leukemia who are no longer responsive to other treatment.

Substantial application potential to other areas of health care

Kimmo Porkka is a blood disease specialist and says that the project focus, diagnostics of acute leukemia, is just one of the possible application areas, and the project results will have remarkable potential in other areas of health care as well. HUS and its partners are looking into scaling up and productising the tools and processes developed in the project, also with international markets in mind. This is expected to bring a remarkable competitive edge when state-of-the-art Finnish health tech expertise is exported abroad.

Thanks to the processing of large data masses, various data sources can be analysed, and patients can be diagnosed more accurately. Automatisation is a prerequisite for the processing of such large data amounts when the aim is to gain more accurate diagnostics, personalised treatment and follow-up. At the same time, the processes are becoming more effective and cost-efficient, and treatment can be given to those patients who get the most benefit from them. “It is important for us to understand the big potential of projects that utilize data masses, such as the CleverHealth Network project. They have the capability to enhance health care processes and engage other actors and companies. Primarily, such projects bear significance for the patients, but also for health care researchers and companies that are, for example, specialised on advanced processing of large data masses,” Kimmo Porkka reminds.

Work in progress: A clinical application for clinicians’ oncological meetings and a common data model

The costs of cancer treatment in Finland reach a billion euros every year. The Treatment of acute leukemia project also aims at cost savings through automated processes. At the moment, Kimmo Porkka and his team of clinicians are developing a clinical tumour board application which will be used in the weekly oncological meetings. The tool will help to automate some processes which will, in turn, accelerate the election of patients to personalised treatment and clinical drug trials. Kimmo Porkka predicts: “Within five years, cancer patients can be directed to personalised therapy at an earlier stage than today, which will most likely lead to better outcome in treatments as the processes are becoming more effective.”

Due to the new data protection regulations, the processing methods of the data to be mined from the datalakes are of utmost importance. The project is also focusing on harmonising the analysed data to make the data compatible with the international data model. This way, the data can be combined both inside and outside Finland without needing to transfer identifiable patient data.  The common data model brings with it a new but necessary approach, which is bound to improve the Finnish competitiveness on international markets as the tools and processes are being productised.

A highly rewarding collaboration project with the top actors from various sectors

Over the course of his long career as a physician and researcher, Kimmo Porkka has become increasingly drawn to the relevance of data processing and programming in health care. He considers his work in the CleverHealth Network a very rewarding experience. The importance of data is likely to increase in the future, and Porkka thinks that this should also show in doctor training: there should be more courses related to data processing.

According to Kimmo Porkka, one of the most enriching aspects in this project has been the opportunity to work in a community where ideas are exchanged between different actors: the project brings together health care experts, top researchers from universities, large and small companies, and HUS IT department. The contact network has also extended to patient associations and other stakeholders. Kimmo Porkka is especially grateful for his researcher colleagues working in the project: the strong contribution from Oscar Brück (Lic. Med.), Perttu Koskenvesa (Lic. Med.) and Otso Brummer (M.A.) keeps the project rolling towards its goals.

More information

Anja Kajanne, Project Manager, HUS, anja.kajanne[at]
Kimmo Porkka, Chief Physician, Professor, HUS, kimmo.porkka[at]