News Archive: 2011

Surprising Improvement in Production of Induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) Cells

KI and Whitehead researchers have found they can boost the production and quality of iPS cells simply by tweaking the levels of reprogramming factors used.  These results may increase the potential for iPS cells to be used as therapies for diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. The findings are reported in the December 2nd issue of Cell Stem Cell. more...

How Cancer Cells Grow with Limited Supplies

Researchers from MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital report that glutamine, a plentiful amino acid, can serve as an alternate starting point for lipid synthesis when glucose and oxygen are scarce.  The finding, detailed in the Nov. 20th online edition of Nature, helps explain how cancer cells continue to grow rapidly in tissues with limited nutrients.   It also illuminates new drug targets that might be used to selectively starve cancers out. more...

Cima Lab's Biosensor Profiled by ABC News

Bill Weir of ABC's Nightline visited the Cima lab to learn all about their implantable sensor, which could allow doctors to continuously and non-invasively monitor tumor environments.  The segment appeared on the ABC News program, "This Could Be Big." more...

Platelets Can Serve as a "Travel Kit" for Tumor Cell Migration

Platelets -- the blood cells that normally promote clotting -- are known to promote the metastatic spread of cancer, but the exact mechanism has remained unclear.  In the Nov. 14th issue of Cancer Cell, KI researchers report that platelets give off chemical signals that induce tumor cells to become more invasive and plant themselves in new locations. These findings may lead to new interventions to block metastasis. more...

Unique Surface Triples Stem Cell Growth in Culture

Koch Institute and Whitehead Institute scientists have developed a new technique to triple the number of human embryonic stem (ES) and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that can be grown in culture. The research was published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists found that by placing polystyrene cell culture plates under UV radiation for a mere 2.5 minutes, they could generate surface chemistries that promoted impressive stem cell growth.  Robust ES and iPS cell production can help scientists model difficult-to-study diseases like cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and could one day facilitate the growth of iPS cells for therapeutic transplantation. more...

Koch Institute Recognized for Energy Efficiency

Since moving in one year ago, the Koch Institute has been thirty percent more energy efficient as compared to to a standard laboratory research building. more...

RNA Interference Inhibits Inflammation

Collaborative effort, including KI researchers, successfully delivered short strands of RNA to reduce inflammation. The findings are reported in the October 9, 2011 issue of Nature Biotechnology and could eventually lead to treatments for cancer and heart patients. more...

National Medal of Science Awarded to KI Member

Rudolf Jaenisch has been recognized for his work that has led to major advances in our understanding of mammalian cloning and embryonic stem cells. more...

KI Director to be Named to National Cancer Advisory Board

In the White House announcement of his appointment, Jacks was recognized by the President for his depth of experience and tremendous dedication to cancer research. more...

Koch Institute Professor Named Winner of The Economist's Annual Innovation Awards

Robert Langer will be honored at an October 20, 2011 ceremony.  Tom Standage, chair of the judging panel, described Langer as "one of the most innovative and influential biomedical engineers of our time". more...

Warren Alpert Foundation Prize Awarded to KI Member

David H. Koch Institute Professor Robert Langer is one of two recipients of this year's prestigious $250,000 prize. 
The award recognizes research discoveries that show strong promise for improving human health. more...

How Cancers Keep a Balance of Cell States

Tumors often contain diverse collections of cells.  A single tumor might include some stem-like cells that are able to seed new tumors and develop drug resistance, and some more differentiated, non-stem-like cells.  The proportions of these different cell states remain constant over time within a tumor - a finding that has long puzzled scientists.  Now, a new mathematical model published in the August 19, 2011 edition of Cell demonstrates that cancer cells are actually able to interconvert between states to maintain equilibrium.  This finding brings new light to the effort to understand complexity within populations of cells, and also has implications for improving anticancer therapies: since depleted stem-like cells could be regenerated by interconversion from non-stem-like cells, cancer therapies will need to target both cell states to be effective. more...

Molded Microparticles for Better Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering

In a paper recently published online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the KI’s Langer Lab and the MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Lab describe a new technique for building microparticles using a microscopic casting mold. The technique allows the scientists to control the shape and drug-release properties of microparticles, and could eventually be used to build large artificial tissues and organs. more...

KI Members Selected as 2011 ACS Fellows

Two Koch Institute members were recognized for outstanding achievement and contributions to science by the American Chemical Society.  Robert S. Langer and Stephen J. Lippard will be honored at the society’s  upcoming 242nd National Meeting  in Denver. ACS Video of Lippard     more...

Nanoparticle Drug Delivery Improved

KI and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals researchers collaborated to find a new nanoparticle that successfully delivered siRNA therapeutics into cells. The researchers tested over 1,500 diverse nanoparticles to deliver the drugs. The research paper appears in this week’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). more...

Overexpressed Gene Could Lead to Improved Lung Cancer Therapy

In a recent issue of Genes and Development, KI researchers detailed their study of aggressive small cell lung cancer in mice models. Using whole-genome profiling, the researchers were able to identify sections of chromosomes that had been duplicated or deleted in mice with cancer, including a single overexpressed gene called Nuclear Factor I/B.  These findings could pave the way for improved targeted therapy of lung cancer. more...

Protein Key to Metabolic Cancer Pathway

KI researchers used a new in vivo screening system to identify the protein PHGDH as an essential part of metabolism in estrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast cancer—a notoriously difficult disease to treat.   When the researchers suppressed production of PHGDH in breast cancer cell lines, the cells stopped proliferating. Results of the study were published in this month's issue of Nature. more...

Promising Polymer May Improve Damaged Vocal Cords

For patients inflicted with vocal cord damage, including laryngeal cancer, improvement may be on the way with a polymer that mimics vocal cords. The gel would be injected periodically to assist vocal cords rather than repair the scarred tissue causing the problem. KI’s Langer Lab collaborated with researchers at MGH and Harvard to develop the synthetic material. more...

Drug Screening Enhanced Through Tissue Engineering

Using tissue scaffolds, KI researchers have established a more efficient way of creating "humanized" mice livers that can also be rapidly implanted. The resulting engineered tissues hold promise for fast-tracking drug development. more...

Using A Patch May Reduce The Need For Conventional Needles

The Boston Globe reports that a drug-filled patch created by KI researchers may one day replace some of the need for conventional needles to administer injected drugs. The patch that attaches to the skin would provide small doses of medication over time in place of frequent hospital visits or bolus injections.  It could be used on chronic diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and hepatitis C.  Clinical trials could begin late next year. more...

Reverse Aging with Yeast Cells

Turning on a particular gene (a transcription factor, NTD80) in aged yeast cells, researchers in the Amon lab have doubled the cells’ usual lifespan. It could offer a new approach to rejuvenating human cells or creating pluripotent stem cells.“There’s a true rejuvenation going on, it took an old cell and made it young again,” says KI Professor Angelika Amon. more...

Microfluidic Chip Used to Measure Single Cell Density

Measuring a cell's physical properties, such as density, buoyancy, or weight, may soon provide useful insights into diverse fundamental cellular processes and might also be useful for identifying and monitoring diseased cells. KI researchers explain the process of measuring single cells in a microfluidics-based suspended microchannel resonator (SMR). more...

Nanoparticles Zero in on Tumor

KI researchers have developed a “two wave” interactive nanoparticle drug delivery system.   The first wave of particles zeroes in on a tumor, then attracts the second wave of nanoparticles that carry and dispense a drug payload. This communication between nanoparticles, enabled by the body’s own biochemistry, boosted drug delivery to tumors by more than a factor of 40 in a mouse study. more...

Langer Wins Prestigious Chemistry Award

2012 American Chemical Society’s esteemed Priestley  Award won by Robert Langer in recognition of cutting-edge research that helped create the controlled-release drug industry and the field of tissue engineering. more...

Interrupting Breast Cancer Stem Cells

MIT Researchers have identified signals that can induce breast epithelial cells to transition to and maintain a mesenchymal and stem cell-like cell state – a state that gives both normal and cancer cells a greater ability to migrate and self-renew. Interrupting these signals strips the cells of the migratory, invasive and self-renewal abilities used by cancers to seed new tumors. more...

Turning Off Cancer’s Growth Signals 

Researchers at the KI and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital have identified a new way to shut off one of the proteins that spreads cancer’s uncontrollable signals — a receptor known as HER3.  In the study, published online May 26 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the researchers found they could effectively shut off growth in six different types of cancer cells that overexpress HER3 by treating the cells with a novel ligand more...

Drug Found to Target Common Oncogene

KI researchers have identified a class of drugs with selective activity against cells expressing oncogenic K-ras – the most frequent oncogenic mutation in human cancer. The most potent member of this class, lanperisone, acts by inducing nonapoptotic cell death, selectively killing K-ras-expressing cells. more...

Removing one amino acid cell could target melanoma cells

KI and Whitehead Institute researchers have found that depriving human melanoma cells of the essential amino acid leucine can be lethal to the cells, suggesting a possible strategy for therapeutic intervention. The researchers observed the effect in melanoma cells with a mutation in the RAS/MEK signaling pathway—the most common mutation found in the deadliest form of skin cancer.  The research paper is published in the May 17th issue of Cancer Cell. more...

Targeted Drug Delivery 'Cloaks' Cancer Drugs

KI engineers have designed a new type of drug-delivery nanoparticle that exploits a trait shared by almost all tumors: They are more acidic than healthy tissues. Such particles could target nearly any type of tumor, and can be designed to carry virtually any type of drug, says KI's Paula Hammond, the senior author of a paper describing the particles  in the journal ACS Nano. The new MIT particles are cloaked in a polymer layer that protects them from being degraded by the bloodstream. However, the KI team designed this outer layer to fall off after entering the slightly more acidic environment near a tumor, revealing another layer that is able to penetrate individual tumor cells. more...

Gene Change Increases Lung Cancer Metastasis

KI researchers have identified a genetic change that makes lung tumors more likely to spread to other parts of the body. The findings, published in the April 6 online issue of Nature, offers new insight into how lung cancers metastasize and could help identify drug targets to combat metastatic tumors, which account for 90 percent of cancer deaths. The biologists in Tyler Jacks' lab found the alteration while studying a mouse model of lung cancer. They then compared their mouse data to genetic profiles of human lung tumors and found that reduced activity of the same gene, NKX2-1, is associated with higher death rates for lung-cancer patients. more...

Targeted Cancer Drugs Improve

With a better understanding the complex inner workings of the cancer cell, KI scientists are learning how to make cancer drugs work more effectively in a larger number of patients. In two studies focusing on a promising class of drugs for lung cancer, researchers have pinpointed new drug targets that could enhance the drugs' activity. They hope a specific combination of cancer drugs will improve individual cancer treatment. more...

The Past, Present and Future of Cancer

Leading cancer researchers reflected on past achievements and prospects for the future of cancer treatment during a recent special MIT symposium titled “Conquering Cancer through the Convergence of Science and Engineering.” The event, one of six academic symposia taking place as part of MIT’s 150th anniversary, focused on the Institute’s role in studying the disease over the past 36 years since the founding of MIT’s Center for Cancer Research (now the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research). more...

Conquering Cancer through the Convergence of Science and Engineering

In conjunction with the MIT150 celebration, a special on-campus symposium will be held to review how the sciences and engineering converge on cancer at MIT. As our faculty and students begin to chart the next course in cancer research, we will celebrate the unique role they have played in its history and illustrate how and why MIT researchers are converging their disciplines to conquer cancer. The program will run 8:30 am–5 pm on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 in Kresge Auditorium. more...

Spherical nanoparticle (Image: Nicolle Rager Fuller/Sayo-Art)

Going with the Flow

Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed a new way to produce nanoparticles that can deliver drugs for cancer and other diseases. The new production system offers greater control over the size and composition of the particles, allowing large quantities of homogenous particles to be rapidly produced. The particles are formed from a commonly used biodegradable polymer that can carry a large number of drug molecules and release them in a controlled fashion while evading the body's immune system. more...

Targeting a Universal Cancer Weakness

A KI team has identified potential drugs that amplify the cellular stress caused by too many chromosomes, known as aneuploidy. When designing new cancer drugs, biologists often target specific gene mutations found only in cancer cells, or in a subset of cancer cells.  The team of biologists led by Angelica Amon from the Koch Institute is now taking a slightly different approach, targeting a trait shared by nearly all cancer cells. more...

Koch Institute (Photo: Dominick Reuter)

Koch Institute Dedication

Members of the MIT community gathered to celebrate the dedication of the new headquarters of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, a pioneering cancer research center that brings life scientists and engineers together in one building. more...

Alice Shaw and Forest White (Photo: Len Rubenstein)

A New Era in Cancer Research

MIT is at the forefront of the next major leap in the fight against cancer, which claims eight million lives per year. In this new era, life scientists and engineers are joining forces – and working directly with clinicians – to transform cancer from a death sentence to a manageable disease. more...

Photo: Peter DeMuth and James Moon

Nano-sized vaccines

MIT engineers have designed a new type of nanoparticle that could safely and effectively deliver vaccines for diseases such as HIV and malaria. The new particles consist of concentric fatty spheres that can carry synthetic versions of proteins normally produced by viruses. These synthetic particles elicit a strong immune response — comparable to that produced by live virus vaccines — but should be much safer, says KI's Darrell Irvine. more...

PNAS publication highlights new low dose RNAi formulation

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a leading RNAi therapeutics company, and collaborators from the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT announced the publication of new data in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) describing further advancements in discovery and development of novel "lipidoid" formulations for the systemic delivery of RNAi therapeutics. more...

Linda Griffith

Two KI engineers named to the National Academy of Engineering

Michael Cima and Linda Griffith are among the 68 new members and nine foreign associates elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) on Feb. 8. Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to "engineering research, practice or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature." more...

Graphic: Christine Daniloff

The power of 'convergence'

A new model for scientific research known as "convergence" offers the potential for revolutionary advances in biomedicine and other areas of science, according to a white paper issued today by 12 leading MIT researchers. The white paper, presented Tuesday morning at a forum hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), says that the United States should capitalize on the trend of convergence – which involves the merger of life, physical and engineering sciences – to foster the innovation necessary to meet the growing demand for accessible, affordable health care. more...