Michael Hemann

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Behind the Music with Michael Hemann

KI faculty member Michael Hemann, the Eisen and Chang Career Development Associate Professor of Biology at MIT, is hitting all the right notes in his quest to develop better ways to deploy chemotherapy. The Hemann Laboratory uses innovative approaches to discover how tumors develop resistance to chemotherapeutics and to identify genetic markers that can predict the success or failure of cancer treatments. What many people don’t know about Ohio native Michael Hemann, however, is that he once dreamed of becoming a museum curator. As part of a new series featuring recently tenured professors, MIT News sat down with Hemann to discuss his career, his research, and his passion for music. An avid bass guitar player, Hemann compares his role as a principal investigator in the lab with that of the bass guitar locking in the way a band sounds. “It’s my job to keep things together and let the rest of them be virtuosos,” he says. His approach seems to be working—he and his colleagues have already begun developing new combination therapies to overcome drug resistance. And that just plain rocks! more...

Hemann & Chen Combine Forces against Resistant Tumors

KI faculty members Michael Hemann, the Eisen and Chang Career Development Associate Professor of Biology, and Jianzhu Chen, the Ivan R. Cottrell Professor of Immunology, have discovered a new treatment for drug-resistant tumors using a combination of existing drugs. In a study published in Cell, the KI team showed that the simultaneous administration of an antibody drug called alemtuzumab (which is FDA-approved for some cancers and in clinical trials for some forms of lymphoma) and cyclophosphamide (a drug that is often given to cancer patients) makes tumor cells more vulnerable to the antibody treatment. Cyclophosphamide stimulates the immune response in bone marrow, eliminating the reservoir of cancer cells that can produce new tumors after treatment and avoiding tumor recurrence. The researchers also reported good results by combining cyclophosphamide with rituximab, another antibody drug used to treat lymphoma and leukemia. They now plan to test cyclophosphamide with other types of antibody drugs for breast and prostate tumors. This research was funded by the MIT Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology, the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund, the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, the German Research Foundation, and the National Cancer Institute. First author and former KI postdoc Christian Pallasch plans to begin testing the alemtuzumab-cyclophosphamide treatment in lymphoma patients. more...

Hemann-Lauffenburger Team Addresses Tumor Heterogeneity

Intratumor heterogeneity is often overlooked in the design of cancer treatment regimens. The laboratories of KI faculty members Michael Hemann, the Eisen and Chang Career Development Associate Professor of Biology, and engineer Douglas Lauffenburger, have developed a new approach. Their recent findings, published in Cancer Discovery, provide insights into design principles for combination therapies for cases of intratumoral diversity. The investigators showed that for many tumors, knowing the dominant subpopulation of tumor cells is insufficient to determine the best drug combination. In some cases the optimal drug combination does not include drugs that would treat any particular subpopulation most effectively.  These results challenge straightforward intuition and highlight the value of this new approach to developing drug regimens for complex tumors. more...

Inside the Lab: Michael Hemann

Michael Hemann

Learn more about the Hemann Lab's work in systems biology and how they use high throughput genetics in model systems to screen for mechanisms of drug resistance. watch...

Modeling and Personalizing Cancer 3

Michael Hemann, Latham Family Career Development Assistant Professor of Biology watch...

Tumor mutations can predict chemo success

New work by MIT cancer biologists shows that the interplay between two key genes that are often defective in tumors determines how cancer cells respond to chemotherapy. The findings should have an immediate impact on cancer treatment, say Michael Hemann and Michael Yaffe, the two MIT biology professors who led the study. The work could help doctors predict what types of chemotherapy will be effective in a particular tumor, which would help tailor treatments to each patient. more...