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Better blood tests for cancer

MIT News

Liquid biopsy technologies leverage DNA shed by normal and tumor cells to diagnose and monitor disease from a simple blood draw, allowing earlier detection of cancer or recurrence and providing genetic information to guide treatment. New priming agents developed by the Love and Bhatia labs, with collaborator Viktor Adalsteinsson, improve the tests’ sensitivity, information yield, and patient applicability. This work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program via the Casey and Family Foundation, the Bridge Project, and the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine.

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New initiative takes aim at women’s cancers

MIT Koch Institute

A new women’s cancers research initiative will pursue the ambitious goal of early diagnosis, detection, and interception of ovarian cancer and other intractable tumors. Led by Angela Belcher, Sangeeta Bhatia, and Paula Hammond, the initiative is supported in part by a gift from the Gray Foundation.
 

An expansive view of glioma cells

MIT News

Using their signature expansion microscopy technique, Boyden Lab researchers have imaged human brain tissue in greater detail than ever before. In a study appearing in Science Translational Medicine and funded in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program via the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund, the team analyzed patient samples of the most aggressive primary brain tumor, high-grade glioblastoma, and low-grade gliomas, which are considered less aggressive. They found that more low grade glioma cells than expected expressed vimentin, a protein that is found in highly aggressive glioblastomas, suggesting that some of these tumors may be more aggressive than previously thought. The researchers hope that this technique could eventually be deployed to diagnose tumors, generate more accurate prognoses, and help doctors choose treatments. 
 

Paula Hammond, 2024 Franklin Institute Awards Laureate

Franklin Institute

Congratulations to Paula Hammond, 2024 Franklin Institute Awards Laureate. Now marking the second century since its inception, the award has honored the most influential scientists, engineers, and inventors who have significantly advanced science and technology, including Nikola Tesla, Marie and Pierre Curie, Orville Wright, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking, and more recently, vaccine pioneers Kizzmekia Corbett, Drew Weissman, and Katalin Karikó. Hammond wins the medal in chemistry for her "innovative methods to create novel materials one molecular layer at a time, and for applying these materials to areas ranging from drug delivery to energy storage."

Nancy Hopkins to receive 2024 Public Welfare Medal 

MIT Koch Institute

Congratulations to Nancy Hopkins, who will receive the prestigious the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal for “her courageous leadership over three decades to create and ensure equal opportunity for women in science.”  The medal is the Academy’s most prestigious award, established in 1914 and presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good.

KI Investigators Take Initiative in Biotech Competition

MIT News

The MIT Faculty Founder Initiative has announced 12 finalists for the 2023-24 MIT-Royalty Pharma Prize Competition, among them KI faculty member Jessica Stark, Charles W. (1995) and Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator Joelle Straehla, and KI alums Ritu Raman and Theresa Raimondo. The competition aims to support female faculty entrepreneurs in biotechnology and provide them with resources to help take their ideas to commercialization. This spring, finalists will pitch their ideas to a committee of faculty, biotech founders, and venture capitalists, who will select a grand prize winner to receive $250,000 in discretionary funds, as well as breakthrough science award and runner-up award winners, who will each receive $100,000.

Programmable mRNA Takes a First Strand

Wired

Strand Therapeutics, co-founded by Darrell Irvine, Ron Weiss, and Weiss Lab alum Jacob Becraft, is targeting tumors for immunotherapy by "programming" mRNA to allow  it to turn on only in specific cell types, at specific times, and in specific amounts. The approach aims to avoid the systemic toxic side effects that often accompany cancer therapies when they are delivered to off-target tissue. This spring, Strand will enroll patients in a clinical trial of using its cancer-hunting mRNA therapy to treat solid tumors. The trial will be the first time a programmable mRNA therapy is tested in people.

A Family Tree for Blood Cells

STAT News

The Weissman Lab developed a method, dubbed "ReDeeM,"  for tracing the ancestry of human blood cells and mapping a cell’s lineage to its current behaviors. Researchers hope that, by monitoring changes in human blood cells in real time, ReDeeM could one day be used to predict disease risk years before symptoms show up. The lab is applying the technique, described in Nature, to learn more about  blood cancers, autoimmune disorders, and the origins of certain types of blood cells.

Better blood tests for cancer

MIT News

Liquid biopsy technologies leverage DNA shed by normal and tumor cells to diagnose and monitor disease from a simple blood draw, allowing earlier detection of cancer or recurrence and providing genetic information to guide treatment. New priming agents developed by the Love and Bhatia labs, with collaborator Viktor Adalsteinsson, improve the tests’ sensitivity, information yield, and patient applicability. This work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program via the Casey and Family Foundation, the Bridge Project, and the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine.

Langer wins 2023 Dr. Paul Janssen Award

New York Academy of Sciences

Congratulations to Robert Langer on winning the 2023 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research in recognition of his groundbreaking work in designing novel drug delivery systems that can release medications continuously, precisely, and at controlled rates over extended periods. Established in 2004, the Dr. Paul Janssen Award has honored scientists who have made a transformational contribution toward the improvement of human health. Langer's award will be celebrated with a half-day virtual symposium, "Pioneering Novel Drug Delivery Systems," on February 8.

Inhalable sensors for early lung cancer detection

MIT News

Inhalable nanosensors from the Bhatia Lab could enable earlier lung cancer detection. When the nanosensors encounter cancer-linked proteins in the lungs, they release a signal that can be detected in the urine with a paper test strip. The diagnostic, described in Science Advances, could make lung cancer screening more accessible in places where CT scans, the current gold standard for detecting lung cancer, are not widely available. This study was funded in part by Johnson & Johnson Lung Cancer Initiative. Additional related work was supported by Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine and the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program via Upstage Lung Cancer.