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The Best of the AACR Journals Collection: Author Profiles

photo of Harri M. Itkonen

Harri M. Itkonen

Title & Affiliation:
Principal Investigator/Academy Research Fellow, Department of Biochemistry and Developmental Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Most-cited Article:
Inhibition of O-GlcNAc Transferase Renders Prostate Cancer Cells Dependent on CDK9

Q: What is your primary area of study/research?
A: Transcriptional regulation and how this can be targeted as potential cancer therapy. I am particularly interested in an enzyme termed O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) and its role in transcriptional regulation. We have shown that OGT is overexpressed in cancer and while it is clearly implicated in the control of the global transcriptional program, mechanistic details of this remain obscure. In addition, we are interested in the major transcriptional kinases; CDK7, CDK9 and CDK12.

Q: What influenced your decision to embark on a research career?
A: I got fascinated on how cancer cells adaptively rewire both transcriptional and metabolic processes to promote proliferation. Having excellent supervisors who have both supported me and given me the freedom to explore scientific questions that go beyond their primary focus has clearly been one of the driving forces in my career.

Q; What excites you most about your research area?
A: The ability to make discoveries that may help the development of better therapies and to understand, fundamentally, how cells maintain the transcriptional program. Ultimately, though, working together with proactive trainees and collaborators is what makes this work so unique and exciting.

Q: What do you do for fun outside of work? What are your passions and hobbies?
A: I enjoy nature and hiking. For me, the quietness, fresh air, and long hikes in the nature are an excellent way to unwind.


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