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microscopic image of cells with DNA in magenta and lysosomal markers on surface in green

Spring Cleaning

MIT News

Manalis Lab researchers have discovered that before cells divide, they take out the molecular trash. In a study appearing in eLife and funded by the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, the team detected a drop in the dry mass of cancer cells using a technique deploying the Manalis Lab’s signature suspended microchannel resonator. Further experimentation revealed an uptick in lysosomal exocytosis, a process where lysosomes—cell organelles that process cellular waste—jettison their contents. Because exocytosis plays a role in the development of resistance to some chemotherapies, the findings could inform new strategies for making cancer cells more susceptible to treatment.

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Ultimate Frisbee

Substantial delivery challenges persist for agents that engage the STING pathway, a highly desirable cancer immunotherapy target. However, new tumor-penetrating lipid nanodiscs developed by the Irvine Lab outperformed previously designed nanoparticles in delivering STING-activating agents to induce tumor rejection and support immune memory against reintroduced tumor cells. This work was published in Nature Materials and supported in part by the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine.

Thrown for a Loop

National Science Foundation

Human genomes are folded into loops that control important processes, such as gene expression and DNA repair, and may lead to cancer when misfolded. The Hansen Lab visualized loop formation—for the first time—and discovered that loops are more rare and short-lived than previously thought. The study, published in Science, illuminates the need for new models of how the genome’s 3D structure regulates cellular processes.

Spring Cleaning

MIT News

Manalis Lab researchers have discovered that before cells divide, they take out the molecular trash. In a study appearing in eLife and funded by the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, the team detected a drop in the dry mass of cancer cells using a technique deploying the Manalis Lab’s signature suspended microchannel resonator. Further experimentation revealed an uptick in lysosomal exocytosis, a process where lysosomes—cell organelles that process cellular waste—jettison their contents. Because exocytosis plays a role in the development of resistance to some chemotherapies, the findings could inform new strategies for making cancer cells more susceptible to treatment.

New Partnerships for the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine

MIT Koch Institute

The Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine—housed within the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT—announces the launch of an affiliate program that will fuel scientific collaborations between academic and industry members and enable breakthrough innovations in all areas impacted by nanomedicine, from drug delivery to gene editing, biomedical imaging, and diagnostics. Inaugural members of this program are Alloy Therapeutics, Danaher Corporation, FUJIFILM Holdings America Corporation, and Sanofi.

Tumor Lineage: The Next Generation

STAT News

A lineage-tracing collaboration between the Weissman, Jacks, and Yosef (UC Berkeley) labs boldly goes where far too many cells have gone before—from cancer-causing mutation to deadly tumor. Their CRISPR-enabled barcode technology allows them to track the evolution of cancer cells in unprecedented detail. The work was published in Cell and supported in part by the Ludwig Center at MIT.

Belcher Elected to NAS

National Academy of Sciences

Cheers to KI member Angela Belcher, recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Belcher, who is also a member of the National Academy of Engineers and the National Academy of Inventors, is being recognized for distinguished and continuing achievements as a materials scientist and biological engineer. She is the fourth KI member to hold all three of these memberships. 

AAAS the World Turns

MIT News

Congratulations to KI members Regina Barzilay and Ron Raines for their election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Honored in the “Class 1” cohort of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, they join 19 other current KI members as part of one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies.

MIT Koch Institute Receives $6M to Intercept and Cure Deadly Cancers

MIT Koch Institute

KI researchers will receive $6 million in grants from Break Through Cancer, a foundation supporting collaborative, multi-disciplinary research teams from leading US cancer centers. The grants support projects aiming to intercept cancer at early stages and find treatments for some of the deadliest cancers, including pancreatic and ovarian cancer, and glioblastoma.

The Molecular Makings of Metastasis

Whitehead Institute

Examining breast cancer cells in various hybrid states across the epithelial-mesenchymal spectrum, the Weinberg Lab is screening for genes and molecules that influence a cell's plasticity. Their findings, published in Nature Cell Biology, will help clarify the mechanisms that drive metastasis and could inform the development of related therapies.  

One Tool to Screen Them All

MIT News

The Birnbaum Lab developed a new method for screening huge libraries of antigens and immune cells at the same time, allowing researchers to identify specific interactions between immune cells and their target antigens among myriad possible pairings. The team modified lentiviruses so that they can only enter immune cells if the viral antigen “key” fits a receptor “lock” on the cell’s surface, mirroring the interplay of immune cells and antigens in the body. Because lentiviruses integrate their DNA into their host cells, specific immune cell pairings can be identified by sequencing the genome of a cell sample. The tool, described in Nature Methods, could help researchers make sense of complex immune recognition in diseases such as HIV, COVID, and cancer, and accelerate the development of more effective vaccines and immunotherapies.

The work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Michael (1957) and Inara Erdei Fund and the Casey and Family Foundation Cancer Research Fund.