Matthew Vander Heiden

News + Videos

Predicting the future with amino acids

Pancreatic cancer is too often detected in late stages and with a poor prognosis. While early detection is still a major hurdle to overcome, KI member Matthew Vander Heiden, the Eisen and Chang Career Development Professor, and collaborators from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute, have found that elevated levels of three amino acids, known as the branched chain amino acids, are an accurate predictor of pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Even blood samples taken from patients up to 10 years before diagnosis revealed evidence of protein breakdown and dysregulated metabolism. While researchers must examine why this early breakdown occurs and determine if this amino-acid signature could definitively be used for early diagnosis, these findings offer promise for cancer therapeutics that target metabolic pathways. more...

Symposium: Targeting Mutant IDH1 in Malignant Gliomas

May 22, 2014 Bridge to Success Targeting Mutant IDH1 in Malignant Gliomas, a collaboration between Matthew Vander Heiden of the Koch Institute, William Kaelin of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Daniel Cahill of Massachusetts General Hospital watch...

Cancer Researchers on the Up-and-Up

Congratulations to KI faculty members Daniel Anderson, J. Christopher Love, and Laurie Boyer on being awarded tenure from MIT. Both Love and Anderson hold appointments in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, bringing their respective expertise in bioanalytics and biomaterials to bear on the Koch Institute's mission (read more). Boyer, an extramural KI member, is a biochemist who develops high-throughput platforms for genome analysis. The granting of tenure to these three by MIT is a testament to the quality of their research and teaching. On June 13, Boyer and Anderson will speak at the KI’s annual summer symposium, "RNA Biology, Cancer, and Therapeutic Implications."

In other promotion-related news, Forest White was promoted to full Professor in the Department of Biological Engineering, and Matthew Vander Heiden, Howard S. (1953) and Linda B. Stern Career Development Professor, to Associate Professor in the Department of Biology. Congratulations to all! more...

AACR Honors KI Faculty and Celebrates National Cancer Research Month

KI faculty member and Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research Richard Hynes has been elected as a member of this year’s AACR Academy Class of Fellows. The AACR Academy was created in 2013 to recognize scientists worldwide whose contributions to cancer research have driven significant innovation and progress against cancer. Hynes joins fellow KI faculty members Tyler Jacks, Robert Horvitz, Phillip Sharp, and Robert Weinberg, who were inducted last year. Other members of the 2014 class include David Livingston, KI Scientific Advisory Board member and co-leader of the Bridge Project, former Board member Titia de Lange, Sharp Lab alumnus and Nobel Prize winner Andrew Fire, and several KI collaborators, including Hans Clevers, Lewis Cantley, Joan Brugge, and Stephen Elledge.

In other AACR award news, KI faculty member and Howard S. (1953) and Linda B. Stern Career Development Professor, Matthew Vander Heiden, has received the AACR Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award, a one-year, $75,000 grant to support cancer research. Vander Heiden will use this award to continue his pioneering studies into the mechanisms of cancer cell metabolism, one of the breakout hot topics of this year’s AACR annual meeting.

In addition to recognizing innovative work within the scientific community, AACR is dedicated to raising public awareness about cancer research through such initiatives as National Cancer Research Month, celebrated in May every year. more...

Great IDH-tions for Cancer Metabolism

To sustain their uncontrolled proliferation, cancer cells exploit unusual metabolic pathways. A prime example is the prevalence of mutations in the enzyme IDH in several human cancers. Mutations in the IDH1 and IDH2 genes result in unusually high production of a cancer-promoting compound called 2-HG. At this year's American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting, Agios Pharmaceuticals announced very promising phase I clinical data from AG-221, an oral drug that is a selective, potent inhibitor of the mutated form of IDH2. Of seven patients with acute myeloid leukemia due to a mutation in IDH2 who were treated with AG-221, six responded to treatment, and the drug eradicated cancer cells in five of them. While these patients have only been followed for a short time and more work is needed, the encouraging data illustrate the promise of targeting cancer metabolism to develop transformative medicines. KI faculty members and cancer metabolism experts Matthew Vander Heiden and David Sabatini serve as scientific advisors to Agios.

Mutant IDH1 in gliomas is also the subject of Vander Heiden’s Bridge Project collaboration with Dana-Farber’s William Kaelin and MGH’s Daniel Cahill. Using a non-invasive imaging method known as magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to scan for 2-HG in patients bearing IDH-mutant gliomas, before and after treatment, the researchers seek to determine whether drugs targeting mutant IDH are hitting their intended mark. They are also exploring alternative strategies to treat IDH1-mutant gliomas in addition to direct targeting of the mutant enzyme.  more...

Cancer Metabolism: On or Off?

The pyruvate kinase M2 isoform (PKM2) is expressed in cancer and plays a role in regulating cell metabolism. In a recent featured article and podcast by Cell, KI biologist Matthew Vander Heiden, Howard S. and Linda Stern Career Development Assistant Professor, showed that PKM2 hyperactivity may not be a marker of tumor cell proliferation as previously thought. In fact, Vander Heiden's results in an in vivo model of PKM2 activity in tumor cells suggest that expression of the enzyme is not necessary for tumor cell proliferation. This implies that the inactive state of PKM2 is associated with tumor cell proliferation, whereas nonproliferating tumor cells require active pyruvate kinase. Consistent with these findings, variable PKM2 expression and recurrent mutations disrupting pyruvate kinase are found in human cancers. The study highlights the importance of understanding the context-dependent metabolic needs of tumor cells in order to therapeutically target cancer metabolism. KI Director Tyler Jacks is also an author of this paper. more...

Tumor Formation Blocked by Boost to Key Enzyme

Cancer cells devote most of their energy to reproducing themselves, triggering alternative metabolic pathways that produce new cellular building blocks. Compounds that disrupt an enzyme critical to this metabolic diversion prevent tumors from forming in mice, according to a study led by KI member Matthew Vander Heiden that appears in Nature Chemical Biology on Aug. 26. more...

Imaging Technology Could Improve Brain Tumor Treatment

A collaborative team of researchers from the KI, Mass. General Hospital, and Agios Pharmaceuticals has developed an imaging technology to detect a mutation found in up to eighty-six percent of the brain tumors known as low-grade gliomas. This technology could help researchers determine whether drugs targeting the tumors are actually working. 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...

Cutting off Cancer's Food Supply

The Vander Heiden lab works to understand one of the oldest mysteries of cancer – its unusual metabolism. watch...

Opening Remarks

Matthew Vander Heiden, David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research watch...

Inside the Lab: Matthew Vander Heiden

Matthew Vander Heiden

Learn more about the Vander Heiden lab and their efforts to better understand cancer cell metabolism and how small molecules might be used to activate enzymes and restore the normal state of cells. watch...

Matthew Vander Heiden. Photo: Patrick Gillooly

An unexpected twist in cancer metabolism

Most cells in the human body burn sugar to fuel their activities. When cells become cancerous, they employ an alternative, wasteful fuel-burning strategy – one that cancer biologists believe lets tumors devote resources to generating building blocks for new cancer cells. In a paper appearing in the Sept. 16 online edition of Science, KI's Matthew Vander Heiden and researchers at Harvard University report a previously unknown element of cancer cells' peculiar metabolism. The finding could help scientists design drugs that block cancer-cell metabolism, essentially starving them of the materials they need to grow and spread. more...

Cancer cells. Image: National Cancer Institute

KI pushes forward in research on cancer metabolism

KI's Matthew Vander Heiden is part of a new generation of cancer researchers that is setting its sights on cancer cells' bizarre and seemingly inefficient metabolism, which appears to be tightly linked to many of the genes already implicated in cancer. more...

(Dr. Annick D. Van Den Abbeele, Dana-Farber)

Old discovery could bring new cancer therapies

An 80-year-old discovery about the way cancer cells use sugar to generate energy is fueling a new wave of research into how cancers proliferate - and how to stop them. more...