The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MITThe David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

National Cancer Institute Cancer Center

Science + Engineering... Conquering Cancer Together

News Archive: 2016

Young and Full of (Piezoelectric) Energy

Clear the way for this KI member's dynamic future! Canan Dagdeviren was named the winner of the Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists in Translational Science. Canan, a postdoctoral fellow in the Langer Lab, was selected for her essay “The future of bionic dynamos”, which describes her work in creating a novel type of battery that can transform the available mechanical energy from the natural movement of organs into electric energy used to power various implanted medical devices, such as cardiac pacemakers. To honor her win, Canan was awarded a medal earlier this month in Stockholm, as well as given the opportunity to attend the 2016 Nobel Prize Ceremony. more...

Schoellhammer Makes Waves

KI researcher Carl Schoellhammer made waves last month being named the 2016 Graduate Gold Medal Winner at the Collegiate Inventors Competition for his invention SuonoCalm. SuonoCalm is a platform technology that enables the ultra-rapid delivery of therapeutics to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and is designed to be an untroublesome device that allows patients to self-administer medication at home. Schoellhammer, a postdoctoral fellow in the Langer Lab, beat out five other Graduate finalist teams to snag the top spot and the $10,000 prize. Congratulations, Carl! more...

Cima Named 2016 NAI Fellow

Congratulations to Michael Cima, Koch Institute faculty member and David H. Koch Professor of Engineering, for being elected as a 2016 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors — one of the highest professional distinctions for academic inventors. Following his induction in April at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Michael will become the seventh KI member to be elected to the NAI. He joins a prestigious group that includes Angela Belcher, Sangeeta Bhatia, Robert Horvitz, Elazer Edelman, Ram Sasisekharan, and Robert Langer.  more...

Eeny Mena Miney Moe...

How do you choose the right drug for a patient? Researchers in the Gertler laboratory have been studying how varying levels of the Mena protein affect cancer cells' response to drugs used to treat triple negative breast cancer. more...

Damage Control 

What doesn’t kill cancer cells makes them stronger, or so goes the adage of chemotherapy resistance. Researchers in the laboratory of extramural KI faculty member Leona Samson have developed a new model for anticipating whether or not cells will respond to DNA-damaging chemotherapy. Using a technique designed to analyze the capacity of four DNA repair pathways simultaneously, the team successfully predicted brain tumor cells’ response to temozolomide, a first-line drug in the treatment of glioblastoma. Because many chemotherapies kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA to provoke cell death, the ability to forecast variations in cell sensitivity and DNA damage repair capacity among patients will improve the potential for personalized treatment. more...

Remembering Scientific Pioneer Susan Lindquist

The Koch Institute shares its sorrow with the MIT and scientific communities over the news that Susan Lindquist, Ph.D., Member and former Director of the Whitehead Institute, and extramural KI faculty member has passed away at age 67 from cancer. Susan was well-known as a trailblazer in the study of protein folding; her research has had profound influences in fields as wide-ranging as human disease, evolution, and nanotechnology. Our admiration for Susan goes beyond her visionary groundbreaking research. Susan was a tireless advocate for women in STEM fields, and her inspirational career is one that will be lauded for years to come. Her tenacious, vibrant, and innovative spirit was contagious, and we are incredibly fortunate to have had her as a foundational part of the KI community. "Susan was a towering figure in biomedical science, a bold and creative scientist, a wonderful mentor, a role model for women in science, and a friend,” said KI Director Tyler Jacks. "Sue will be missed greatly in our community and well beyond. Our hearts and thoughts go out to her family and to the members of her laboratory, present and past.”  Read more about Susan's life and legacy via the Whitehead Institute, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and Cell Press. more...

Doubling Down on Immunotherapy

They say the best offense is a strong defense and cancer immunotherapy is just that—leveraging the body’s natural defense mechanisms to overcome cancer’s immunosuppressive nature. KI researchers have designed a new immunotherapy that combines strategies developed by the Irvine and Wittrup laboratories to activate both innate and adaptive immunity. Their approach, described in Nature Medicine and featured in Nature's Research Highlights, shows unprecedented results eliminating large, aggressive tumors in mice, and offers great potential for matching the current effectiveness of adoptive T cell transfer at a much lower cost, thus leveling the playing field for future patients across the board. It could also be customized to target multiple cancer types, while simultaneously training the immune system to tackle future challenges if new tumor cells return for an instant replay. more...

Paula Hammond Elected to the National Academy of Medicine

Hammond, known for her focus on polymeric materials, received this honor (considered one of the highest in health science) for her outstanding professional achievements and commitment to bettering the field of medicine. more...

Predicting Tumor Response for Personalized Cancer Care

The KI’s Manalis lab, in partnership with clinicians and other researchers working under the auspices of the KI-DF/HCC Bridge Project, has mobilized their suspended microchannel resonators to quickly and accurately analyze how mass accumulation of cells in individual patients’ tumors changes after exposure to different drugs. more...

Thinking Outside the Dish

Cell metabolism has been called the "Achilles Heel" of cancer, an opportunity to attack tumors as they consume essential nutrients to feed their hyperproliferative nature. However, many of the experiments exploring how cancer cells metabolize these nutrients are conducted in plastic dishes, several steps removed from an in vivo environment.

To more faithfully model these processes, researchers in the KI's Vander Heiden lab infused tumor-bearing mice with isotope-labeled glucose and glutamine (two important molecules for fueling cancer cell replication and proliferation) and compared their fates in both tumor and normal tissue. In both situations, glucose was converted to lactate at an expectedly elevated rate (cancerous cells are commonly observed to increase lactate production) but the cells' utilization of glutamine did not increase, a starkly different result than that observed in analogous experiments performed in tissue culture.

The conclusion that in vitro results cannot be applied uniformly to in vivo environments is not unexpected, but it is indicative of the importance of understanding the context in which metabolic processes occur. Using in vivo metabolic tracking presents an exciting opportunity for probing the metabolic properties of multiple tumor types in vivo, and can lead to novel insights into the biology of human cancers. Mouse models that faithfully recapitulate human cancers will be critical for identifying tumors' vulnerabilities within a given tissue and give researchers a "heel" up on designing therapies that target cancer metabolism.     more...

The Secreted Lives of Tumors

Like iron filings caught in a magnetic field, researchers in the KI’s Bhatia Lab are drawn to small-scale solutions to large-scale problems. To tackle the challenge of localized, non-invasive diagnosis and monitoring of the environment surrounding a tumor, the lab has expanded the use of their nanoparticle-mediated biomarker detection system. ​ more...

T-Minus 10 Recommendations for Cancer Moonshot Liftoff

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) accepted 10 research recommendations proposed by the Blue Ribbon Panel of top cancer experts to shape the research blueprint for the Cancer Moonshot initiative. The panel, co-chaired by KI Director Tyler Jacks, was tasked by the Obama/Biden administration with guiding the direction of the initiative’s goal: to make a decade’s worth of advancements in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care in only five years.  more...

Vander Heiden Named Inaugural HHMI Faculty Scholar

Congratulations to KI faculty member Matthew Vander Heiden, who has been named to HHMI’s inaugural class of Faculty Scholars. This program, the first collaboration between the HHMI, the Simons Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recognizes awardees’ “great potential to make unique contributions to their field.” Vander Heiden, a rising star in the field of cancer metabolism, was chosen, along with three other MIT faculty members, from more than 1,400 applicants; the full cohort consists of 84 early career scientists from 43 institutions across the U.S.  more...

Sweet Success for KI Startups 

Congratulations to KI startups PanTher and Suono Bio for being selected as the winners of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Golden Tickets for LabCentral, an innovative launch pad lab space for life-sciences and biotech startups. Both companies were chosen for their innovative technologies that have the potential to improve the lives of patients; PanTher first began as part of the Bridge Project, a unique translational research collaboration between the KI and Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. more...

A New Release on Life

Nanoparticles are becoming an attractive option for targeted cancer therapy, but do these new delivery methods interfere with their cargo's functions? The Hemann Lab teamed up with the MIT Department of Chemistry’s Johnson Lab to measure cell response to their previously developed high capacity nanoparticlesmore...

The Langer Lab: Pros at Probiotic Delivery

Probiotics are increasingly used to aid in the treatment of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses, but how can we ensure their delivery to benefit the gut microbiome? New findings from the Langer Lab, published in Advanced Materials, may have the answer, by coating the bacteria using layer-by-layer encapsulation. more...

Lippard Named 2016 Welch Award in Chemistry Recipient

Stephen Lippard, KI extramural faculty member and the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor at MIT, has been honored as a 2016 Welch Award in Chemistry Recipient. The award is given to those who have made important chemical research contributions which have a significant, positive influence on mankind. Lippard was selected for his many extraordinary accomplishments; a notable one being his contribution to research that involves the role of metal ions in biological systems, which allowed deep understanding of the inner workings of the drug, cisplatin. Thanks in large part to Lippard’s findings and his attention to important clinical issues such as drug design and delivery, cisplatin is now a widely used antitumor agent, with a particularly impressive success rate in the treatment of testicular cancer. Learn more about Lippard's accomplishments and the Welch Award in Chemistry. more...

More Than Skin Deep

KI graduate student Anasuya Mandal wants to make a difference in human health. Working with KI faculty members Paula Hammond, a David H. Koch Professor of Engineering, and Darrell Irvine, Mandal has been leveraging the power of microneedle technology to improve disease management and vaccine design. The device she uses was previously featured in the Koch Institute Image Awards and has also been used to investigate strategies for studying tumorigenesis and cancer cell biology. Mandal, a chemical engineer whose work thus far has focused on autoimmune diseases, is interested in health care consulting and excited about the possibilities of expanding the technology’s applications to include diagnosis and monitoring. “I've always wanted to have a way to make somebody else's life better,” she says. Read more. more...

“I think the statistics are all getting better. What I like to say is that I’m just impatient with the slope of the line,” Bhatia (pictured above, left) says. “I have two young girls. I want it to be better already.”

Bhatia Discusses Gender Diversity in Biotech

Diversity in high-tech industries has been increasingly under the microscope in recent years, but one thing KI faculty member and entrepreneur Sangeeta Bhatia thinks is missing from the conversation is why people should care. In this article, she sits down with Xconomy to discuss the imperative need for gender diversity both on a sector-wide and individual level, as well as her ideal timeline for progress in this area. more...

On the Origin of Mutations

You can take the tumor out of the tissue, but you can’t take the tissue out of the tumor. In a paper published in Science, the KI’s Vander Heiden Lab presents strong evidence that activation and suppression of cancer-causing genes can have wildly different results in cell metabolism depending on the tumor’s tissue of origin.

To prove that tissue of origin influences tumor behavior, researchers utilized models of both pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) with identical genetic mutations. They found that despite having the same initiating events, the resulting cancer cells used branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) differently as they proliferated. Their results showed that the NSCLC tumors used free-flowing BCAAs to supply the tumor with essential growth nutrients, while the PDAC tumors decreased their use of these free BCAAs. Indeed, blocking metabolism of these BCAAs inhibited the formation of NSCLC but not PDAC tumors. As such, they concluded that therapies designed to impair tumor growth by suppressing enzymes needed for BCAA use would be most effective in NSCLC and that a different treatment plan would be required to slow the growth of PDAC tumors.

The Vander Heiden Lab’s findings suggest a shifting paradigm for personalized medicine, in which context plays as critical a role as the genetic drivers. In other words, those who seek to exploit the pathways that cancer cells employ to survive ought to consider not just how the journey begins, but also where.     more...

So Many Cells, (in) So Little Time

The need to pinpoint the effects of new treatments on cell growth, and to do it quickly, has become more critical than ever. In response to this demand, the KI’s Manalis Lab has significantly increased the throughput of their suspended microchannel resonators (SMRs) to measure cell characteristics at record speed — all while retaining its standing as the most accurate method of single-cell growth measurement. more...

Deep in the Heart of Tumors

As tumors grow, the distribution of cells within them becomes increasingly heterogeneous. Researchers in the KI’s Jacks Laboratory are using a cell-specific visualization technique known as mosaic analysis with double markers (MADM) to examine the diversity of cell types within mouse models of certain lung and pancreatic cancers. Their experiments examine the effects of mutations to the p53 tumor suppressor gene on cancer initiation and progression. MADM’s unique fluorescent tagging system allows researchers to track genetic changes among cell populations and characterize the tumors at various stages of their development. The results, appearing in Nature Communications, present the first experimental in vivo evidence of genetically distinct subclonal (mutant offspring of cloned cells) population dispersion in solid tumors, as well as further details about the science behind lead author Mandar Muzumdar’s award-winning image The Bad Seed, previously seen in the KI’s 2014 Image Awards exhibition. more...

Resistance is Brutal

Chemotherapy induces damage in both cancer and normal cells, and it is increasingly clear that the non-cancerous cells in the tumor can contribute to the development of therapeutic resistance. Building on previous work in this area, researchers in the laboratory of KI faculty member Michael Hemann, have discovered that doxorubicin, a common chemotherapeutic agent, induces a previously uncharacterized response in endothelial cells (the cells lining the blood vessels). This response, termed “acute stress-associate phenotype” or “ASAP” can promote chemoresistance in B-cell lymphoma through the activation of a signaling pathway affecting inflammation and cytokine secretion. Their results, published in Genes & Development, emphasize the importance of studying not just cancer cells themselves, but also the tumor microenvironment in order to develop targeted treatments to suppress such resistance mechanisms. Read article   more...

Bhatia Lab Helps CRISPR See the Light

Researchers in the laboratory of KI faculty member Sangeeta Bhatia have developed a new way to target cells for gene editing, using ultraviolet light. By creating customizable, light-sensitive DNA “protectors,” the team can turn the RNA “guides” that work within the popular CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing system to target individual sections of the genome, into switches that turn on and off the genes of interest. This modularized approach offers greater control over the system, allowing researchers to more precisely study genetic drivers of development and disease, and could provide a new strategy for turning off cancer-causing genes within tumor cells.

The work, led by postdoc Piyush Jain, has been covered by multiple news outlets, including TED Blog, Futurism, The Longevity Reporter, TSS, OncoTherapy Network, and Sina.com (in Chinese).     more...

Thanks for the Memories

Dear Cell Diary: Today, we learned that researchers in the laboratory of extramural KI faculty member Timothy Lu are using CRISPR/Cas9 to engineer human cells to genetically encode their own history. Now these cells can maintain a record of multiple genetic events over the course of their lifetime! Most immediately, this technology could be used in laboratory research; eventually, cells' ability to remember complex biological histories could be used to monitor cancer progression and identify key genetic contributions to the disease.  more...

A Hard Day’s Night for Tumorigenesis

The KI's Jacks Lab wants to Let It Be known that two of the genes that control cells’ light/dark regulation are also tumor suppressors. Their experiments, conducted with Help! from a genetically engineered mouse model of non-small cell lung cancer, explore the effects of both night shift work and jet lag on tumor development and offer Something New in the search for exploitable drug targets as researchers work around the clock to fight cancer. more...

E. coli of duty

The fight against cancer needs all the foot soldiers it can get and the KI’s Bhatia Lab, in collaboration with UC San Diego’s Hasty Lab, has risen to the challenge. Their new recruits, genetically engineered E. coli bacteria, are carting toxic payloads into tumors and releasing them with remarkable efficiency. By capitalizing on the bacteria-friendly environment in which cancer cells thrive, the researchers are developing both diagnostic and treatment applications for these programmed bacteria, and broadening the definition of “foot soldiers” to include flagella as well. This work was supported in part by the S. Leslie Misrock (1949) Frontier Research Fund for Cancer Nanotechnology. more...

KISS and Tell

On June 10, 2016, researchers from Cambridge, Boston, and beyond gathered at MIT for the 15th annual Koch Institute Summer Symposium (KISS). Focusing on cancer prevention and early detection, and anchored by a thought-provoking panel discussion about the challenges associated with this work, KISS speakers described how new technologies combined with advances in understanding of the genetics and cell biology of cancer could reduce the cancer death rate worldwide. Watch all presentations here. more...

Survival of the Most Resistant

The Meyer Lab, led by KI research fellow Aaron Meyer, uses systems biology to better understand drug resistance pathways in tumors and identify commonalities between them. This work is an important part of the KI's focus on personalized medicine. The lab's latest results, published in Cancer Research, describes the role of the JNK signaling pathway in limiting the effectiveness of certain targeted therapies. Their results will inform the design of new strategies for assessing the effectiveness of combination therapy for patients. more...

Screenings to Run, Nowhere to Hide

Researchers from the Koch Institute, Broad Institute, and Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed a new, interdisciplinary approach to interrogate rare cancers in pursuit of promising therapeutic targets. By combining patient-derived models with functional genomics and chemical screens, the team aims to create detailed disease profiles to inform treatment and drug development for clinical applications. more...

Higher Yield on Your Next Vax Return

KI engineers are taking vaccination to the next level. By packaging strands of messenger RNA inside nanoparticles, researchers can generate an effective, fast-acting immune response to a variety of diseases. Unlike current vaccines, these dendrimer polymers can be fabricated in a matter of weeks, offering a customizable line of defense against outbreaks and changing biological environments. Building on their success in such areas as Ebola and H1N1, the researchers hope to apply this technology toward the treatment of Zika, Lyme disease, and, as presented in the team’s acclaimed Mission: Possible pitch this spring, cancer. Additional coverage on Digital Trends, The Naked Scientist (news, interview) Reuters (news, video) more...

Resident Rockstars

Congratulations to the KI trainees and alums who have been making both news and waves across the media and awards circuit. The highest proportion of awards about which we’ve received word comes from the Langer and Anderson Labs. Suman Bose has been named among the top 40 under 40 Healthcare Innovators by Medtech Boston, Michael Mitchell is one of ten scholars awarded the interdisciplinary Career Awards at the Science Interface by the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund, and Omid Veiseh bids farewell to the KI after Rice University secured a $2 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to recruit him to their Department of Bioengineering. Alumnus Armon Sharei was featured in Inc. Magazine after being named in their annual 30 under 30 list. Finally, congratulations to Bhatia Lab postdoc Simone Schurle on her prestigious Branco Weiss Fellowship, awarded by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) for her work in microrobotics and nanotechnology for cancer treatment. more...

Bhatia Shoots for the Moon

KI faculty member Sangeeta Bhatia uses tiny technology to address large scale challenges. As such, it no surprise that she was a featured speaker at Vice President Biden’s recent summit on new initiatives for the ongoing Cancer Moonshot effort. Her talk, which focused on the combined power of computation and miniaturization, emphasized the importance of early detection and cancer prevention. Stand Up To Cancer recently profiled the event on their blog. more...

Biomedicine for the Convergent Soul

new MIT report sounds the battle cry for increased collaboration and funding of integrative research bringing together physical and life sciences. Co-chaired by KI members Tyler Jacks, KI director and the David H. Koch Professor of Biology; Susan Hockfield, president emerita of MIT; and Phillip Sharp, Institute Professor, the report builds on a 2011 white paper and cites numerous examples of ground-breaking cross-disciplinary research. The report was formally presented at last month’s Convergence Forum at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (watch presentations). The winners of the Convergence Idea Challenge, a contest for emerging researchers to push (and blur) the boundaries of their field, were also announced.

This was not the only showcase of convergent minds, however. Earlier in the month, the KI hosted another Convergence-inspired event, highlighting the hot topics of biomedicine here in the Kendall Square convergence hub. The American Association of Cancer Research also stepped up to the challenge, hosting the first ever Special Conference on Engineering and Physical Sciences in Oncology in late June. MGH’s Rakesh Jain, along with his KI Bridge Project collaborator, KI faculty member Robert Langer, the David. H. Koch Institute Professor, and Joan Brugge of Harvard Medical School, co-chaired the conference. Like the Convergence movement itself, meetings like these bring together diverse perspectives in pursuit of a common goal—advancing the future of medicine.             more...

Team Players Declared Most Valuable

Dedicated to the support of front-line research, KI administrators are often unsung heroes in the fight against cancer. However, their work does not go unnoticed. MIT recently recognized the KI HQ pre-awards staff (Mary Ellen Acone, Elisabeth Choi, and Emma Malbon) and Amanda Maffa, lab manager for the Sharp Laboratory, with “Infinite Mile” awards. Additionally, Executive Director Anne Deconinck was honored by the Boston Cannons in their inaugural “Cannons Fighting Cancer” ceremony for the impact she makes leading collaborative and communications efforts at the KI. Congratulations and thank you to all! more...

Do Viruses Make You Feel Funny?

What exactly does KI faculty member Angela Belcher do all day? This was the challenge presented to three comedians on a recent “You’re the Expert” podcast, which brings together academic experts and sharp-witted humorists for a deep, humorous dive into the inner workings of top research laboratories. Listen, laugh, and learn about Belcher’s work engineering viruses and bacteria to create new technologies. more...

Body Builders in Our Backyard

While cancer may be a disease of aging, KI faculty members Robert Langer and Leonard Guarente are keeping things young and fresh in the field of bionics. As evidenced by recent coverage in The Boston Globe, Langer clearly has his ear to the ground as he works with Harvard’s Karp Lab to develop a new pill to restart the growth of hair cells whose depletion contributes to hearing loss. As for Guarente, his spin-off company Elysium Health makes marketing of an anti-aging vitamin part of its daily workout. Along with the recently-profiled “second skin” polymer, these projects make it clear that building better bodies is part of a healthy research portfolio. more...

Keeping Up with the Koehlers

As a chemist with an appointment in MIT's Department of Biological Engineering, KI faculty member Angela Koehler is no stranger to the challenges of navigating multiple worlds at once. On The Secret Life of Scientists, Koehler dives into cancer drug discovery, mentorship, and how she and her husband, fellow academic and former KI postdoc Arturo Vegas, balance life in the lab with parenting three under three. more...

Taking a Stand

Researchers in the field of cancer metabolism are working to identify how cancer cells fuel their growth, and how to use this process against the disease. For his work in this area, KI member Matthew Vander Heiden, the Eisen and Chang Career Development Professor, has received a $750,000 Innovative Research Grant from Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C). SU2C's Innovative Research Grants support early career scientists focused on high-risk projects. Vander Heiden was among ten researchers nationwide to receive the award this year. Vander Heiden’s project is focused on understanding the aspects of metabolism that are essential for the growth of lung, pancreatic, and prostate cancers. This work may lead to the identification of novel drug targets and thus new treatments.   more...

http://glimpsepod.scripts.mit.edu/home/

Podcasts with Postdocs

Three episodes of a new MIT podcast offer an insightful glimpse into the wide-ranging research of the Koch Institute. Sharing insights about cancer biology, immune engineering, and biomaterials, KI postdocs Madeleine Oudin (Gertler Lab), Talar Tokatlian (Irvine Lab), and Asha Patel (Lander/Anderson Labs, and a 2016 Image Awards winner) spoke with GLIMPSE podcast host Alex Albanese, himself a former Bhatia Lab researcher and current KI Image Awards winner, about their studies, their pathways, and their inspiration. more...

Trusting Ömer Yilmaz to Change the World

The Pew Charitable Trusts honor creative, young, curiosity-driven scientists poised to change the course of scientific discovery and human health. KI faculty member Ömer Yilmaz is among this year’s Pew-Stewart Scholars for Cancer Research, recognized for his promising approaches toward the treatment of intestinal cancers. Amon Lab alumna Gloria Brar, Jaenisch Lab alum Dirk Hockemeyer, and Ploegh Lab alumna Stepahnie Dougan have also been honored as a 2016 Pew Biomedical Scholar. more...

Pearls Before STEM

“If you’re wearing pearls today,” KI faculty member Angela Belcher told the crowd assembled at the KI for “The Science of Gender and the Gender of Science", “you’re wearing a biocomposite nanomaterial.” Belcher and fellow KI faculty member Angela Koehler presented their work and professional experiences as part of Cell Press’s LabLinks event on May 19. The day’s lecture and discussion sessions, which began with a welcome and call to action by KI Executive Director Anne Deconinck, ranged from protein engineering, endocrinology, and reproduction to diversity, lab culture, and the pay gap, and did not shy away from difficult questions affecting women and men alike. The event was co-hosted by the Association for Women in Science. Learn more about the motivation behind this meeting and catch highlights on Twitter. You can also explore contributions by KI members and meeting participants to Cell Metabolism's Rosie Project (subscription required). more...

A Vision for Precision

KI director Tyler Jacks recently spoke with Robert Weisman of The Boston Globe about the next generation of precision medicine. Citing genome mapping as the opening act, Jacks emphasized the importance of looking carefully at specific genetic mutations in order to identify both causes and risk factors of cancer and other diseases. Weisman’s article explores the interplay between current academic and clinical research, bolstered in part by President Obama’s 2016 Precision Medicine Initiative, and the biopharma opportunities in Cambridge and beyond. more...

Tumors Behaving Badly

It takes a village to raise a child, but what about shape-shifting tumors? Can they be corralled into submission? KI faculty members Douglas Lauffenburger and Michael Hemann are teaming up to create detailed profiles of tumor behavior, including their variable responsiveness to treatment, with an eye toward overcoming drug resistance and transforming tumor development models. Their approach may just be the discipline the field is calling for! more...

Once in a Blue Ribbon ‘Moonshot’

KI Director Tyler Jacks has been selected to co-chair a panel of experts convened to advise Vice President Joe Biden's Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The Blue Ribbon Panel is comprised of leaders from academia, medicine, and advocacy groups. In the coming months, it will develop recommendations on a range of cancer-related issues from promising new technologies to data-sharing. Jacks’s fellow co-chairs are Elizabeth Jaffee of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins and Dinah Singer of the National Cancer Institute. The panel’s recommendations will be incorporated in a report produced by the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force and delivered to President Obama by December 31. more...

Mission: Accepted

In honor of the five-year anniversary of the dedication of Building 76, the KI invited members of our community to participate in a special competition: 'Mission: Possible.' Six teams from labs across the KI proposed innovative research projects related to cancer prevention or early detection. The judges included some of the biggest names in biotech and venture capital. The competition was emceed by STAT's Megan Thielking. The grand prize—a $300,000 one-year research grant—went to team IllumiRNA, comprised of members of the Sharp, Anderson, and Langer laboratories. They plan to develop a diagnostic platform to detect leukemia cells using simple blood tests at very early stages of the disease. The award came after a surprise funding announcement by the Advanced Medical Research Foundation for team Project Asclepius, from the Jacks and Anderson laboratories, who are working on a cancer prevention vaccine that will train the immune system to fight cancer as it does an infectious disease. See the pictures, watch the presentations, and read more. more...

Bridge to the Future

The Bridge Project collaboration between the Koch Institute and Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center also celebrated its fifth anniversary this spring. With eleven new projects launched in April, Bridge Project research teams continue to pursue solutions to the most challenging problems in cancer research and care. Among many Bridge success stories, a team led by KI members Robert Langer and Elazer Edelman, selected in the very first round of funding, has now launched a company with their device aimed at drug delivery to pancreatic tumors. Watch MIT post-doc Laura Indolfi discuss this technology on the TED stage and read more about recent results from this collaboration. more...

Happy Birthday to Us

This spring marked the fifth anniversary of the Koch Institute's move into Building 76 and of bringing together scientists and engineers under one roof, with one mission. The season was filled with celebrations of this momentous occasion. Our Public Galleries welcomed a new set of images, beautifully illustrating the power of convergence. We created an anniversary video celebrating the KI’s accomplishments and looking toward the possibilities of the future. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, we awarded a number of postdoctoral Quinquennial Cancer Research Fellowships. Continuing on our theme of ‘fives,’ our SOLUTIONS with/in/sight masterclasses this year have focused on each of our five research focus areas. A two-day Immune Engineering Symposium dove deeply into the promise of the marriage of immunotherapy and engineering, and 'Mission: Possible' (see below) gave us two more reasons to celebrate.  more...

Another Five to Celebrate

Five KI faculty members were among the 25 honored with awards at this year’s American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in New Orleans. Angelika Amon, the Kathleen and Curtis Marble Professor in Cancer Research, was selected to present the AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship; Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, was recognized with the 2016 AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship; Rudolf Jaenisch and Eric Lander were elected Fellows of the AACR Academy; and last, but certainly not least, Robert Weinberg was honored with the AACR’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Cancer Researchmore...

TED Live and Learn

KI engineers Paula Hammond, a David H. Koch Professor of Engineering, and Sangeeta Bhatia, the John J. and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology & Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, made their Broadway debuts at TED Talks Live, in partnership with PBS. Hammond unveiled “a new superweapon in the fight against cancer” (watch now) while Bhatia explored how a “tiny particle could roam your body to find tumors” (watch now). Both presentations were offered as part of the two-day Science & Wonder series within the weeklong event and preceded Bhatia’s appearance at TEDMED, during which she spoke further about her vision for miniaturization of biomedical inventions (watch now). more...

Pleading Immunotherapy

In addition to being one of the KI’s five focus areas since its inception, cancer immunology and immunotherapy have been oncology’s hottest topics for the past 3 years. Two recent events hosted by the KI explored recent advances in these fields. In early May, KI faculty members Darrell Irvine and Dane Wittrup brought together biological, chemical, and materials engineers for “Engineering Immunity,” a two-day symposium to explore how engineers, immunologists, and clinicians can work together to put immunotherapy into practice. Later in May, KI director Tyler Jacks presented a public-facing “Masterclass” as part of the KI’s ongoing with/in/sight lecture series. The evening, which included hands-on demonstrations by members of the Jacks and Irvine laboratories, was the third of five dedicated events focusing on the KI’s focus areas in our fifth anniversary year. Read more, view pictures and presentation here. more...

More to Celebrate

KI members spent much of the spring accumulating accolades. Robert Weinberg was awarded the Salk Institute Medal for Research Excellence<, an honor bestowed only twice before in the Salk Institute's 55-year history. MIT President Emerita Susan Hockfield received an honorary degree from Northeastern University. Robert Langer received the Benjamin Franklin Medal and is one three U.S. finalists for the European Inventor Award. Finally, KI members David Sabatini and Hidde Ploegh were among four MIT faculty elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and Stephen Lippard was elected to the American Philosophical Society. more...

Big PrEvents

KI Director Tyler Jacks recently spoke with Carolyn Johnson of The Washington Post about the importance of both prevention and treatment in the fight against cancer.

Our upcoming annual KI Summer Symposium (KISS) will focus on these topics, which we view as the next crucial phase of cancer research. As much as 70% of cancer worldwide may be preventable. Despite enormous progress in treatment, it is likely that the greatest reduction in cancer deaths to date is the result of cancer prevention and early detection. New technologies, combined with advances in our understanding of the genetics and cell biology of cancer, are likely to further reduce the burden of cancer through simpler, less expensive, more precise, and more efficient approaches.

Dovetailing with the emphasis on catching cancer early or preventing it altogether, the KI sponsored three prizes for cancer prevention and early detection at MIT Hacking Medicine’s Grand Hack. This year's Hack included 400 participants from 260 institutions and 19 countries who worked together, and in just 48 hours, developed and presented more than 70 inspiring Hacks. We are proud of the KI trainees actively involved in Hackathons, especially Chris Lee, Katerina Mantzavinou, Khalil Ramadi, and Monica Stanciu. See pictures from the event. more...

Double Trouble for Ovarian Tumors

The combined strengths of the Hammond and Belcher Labs have converged on a new method for the early detection and treatment of ovarian cancer. The double-barreled results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compare the performances of four second-window near-infrared (NIR-II) probes under consideration for previously unexplored applications in biomedical imaging, and demonstrate how the most successful of these probes, a layered nanoparticle with fluorescent capability, was able to accurately pinpoint the location of both primary and metastatic tumors in a mouse model of ovarian cancer with unprecedented precision. The proof of concept experiments combine the Hammond Lab’s signature on-demand layer-by-layer drug delivery system with the Belcher Lab’s development of high-resolution NIR-II fluorescent imaging tools and, with intravital imaging technology in the KI’s Microscopy Core Facility, lay the groundwork for a “theranostic” platform with both therapeutic and diagnostic capacity. An early image from this study was also selected as a 2016 Image Awards winner and can be seen in the KI Public Galleries. The work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund. more...

More Than Skin-Deep

It would be easy to dismiss the new skin-tightening polymer developed by MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, Living Proof, and Olivo Labs as purely cosmetic, but this “second skin” biomaterial has a variety of potential functions in the realms of drug delivery and UV protection. KI faculty members Daniel Anderson and Robert Langer are among the researchers behind this technology; they are excited about both the techniques used to develop it and its practical applications. more...

That's So Ninja

“Fascinating and daunting” is how KI director Tyler Jacks describes tumors in Episode 10 of STAT’s SIGNAL podcast. Jacks joined former advisor and Nobel Prize winner Harold Varmus and others to talk with STAT’s Luke Timmerman and Meg Tirrell about cancer’s dirty, sneaky ability to evolve, evading both the immune system and treatment, in “Cancer is a low-down, gagster ninja.” Listen online; Jacks makes his first of several appearances around the five-minute mark. more...

Reducing Cancer Risk with Fat-Fighting Nanoparticles

Last year obesity overtook smoking as the top preventable cause of cancer death in the United States. However, a new nanoparticle developed by researchers in the laboratories of KI faculty member Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, and collaborator Omid Farokhzad (Brigham and Women’s Hospital) can deliver anti-obesity drugs directly to fat tissue. This novel approach, tested on mice, has the potential to reduce future recipients’ risk of developing obesity-related diseases, as well as provide treatment with fewer side effects.   more...

Open Doors, Open Minds

Sixteen laboratories and 80+ volunteers joined forces in the KI Public Galleries for MIT’s Campus-wide Open House. In celebration of MIT’s first century in Cambridge and the 10th annual Cambridge Science Festival, the KI's open house event showcased a compelling array of cancer research at MIT. More than 500 visitors enjoyed hands-on activities, demonstrations, a lab trivia scavenger hunt, and selfie opportunities with KI faculty members. See photos from the festivities. more...

Personalized Drug Device Enters Clinical Trials

Figuring out which drugs will work best for an individual patient can be challenging and time-consuming, if not impossible. Last spring, however, KI postdoc Oliver Jonas published his development of a microdevice that can be implanted into tumors, using a biopsy needle, to test the efficacy of multiple cancer therapeutics or combinations. At this year's AACR annual meeting, Jonas presented preclinical results on the device, which has also been used to uncover new methods of drug resistance. He described updates to the device, which can now hold up to 100 different drugs or combinations as well as relay results in real-time, and he announced the launch of the first clinical trials of the device.

Jonas is a member of the laboratories of Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, and Michael Cima, a David H. Koch Professor of Engineering. This work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program. more...

On the Road Again

Koch Institute outreach has gone national! In April, the Koch Institute joined eight other MIT groups at the USA Science & Engineering Festival to raise awareness about MIT’s ground-breaking research and build excitement in STEM discoveries and careers. The KI display challenged more than 500 visitors to answer two questions—what does cancer look like, and how do we treat it—using iPhone microscopes and alginate beads, and investigate the grand experiment of what happens when biology and engineering come together to fight cancer. more...

Taking Europe by Storm

In a testament to the global reach of KI faculty member Robert Langer’s technology, the European Patent Organization has named him Winner of the European Inventor Award 2016 (Non-European Countries category). Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, is honored for his pioneering approach to drug delivery and particularly the invention of implantable, wafer-like “bio plastics” that encapsulate therapeutic agents to inhibit the formation of blood vessels that feed tumors. The awards ceremony itself has been called "The Oscars of Innovation" and "The Eurovision for Hot Patent Talent." more...

The Pill Has Two Faces

Many drugs need to be taken multiple times per day, leaving ample room for user error and making it difficult to control dosage. Now, a new type of pill designed by a team led by KI members Giovanni Traverso and Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, could allow patients to reduce the frequency at which they have to take these medications. The pill attaches to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and slowly release its contents. It is engineered so that one side adheres to tissue while the other repels food and liquids that could pull it away from the attachment site. Like last year’s ingestible sensor, one of 10 inventions honored by Popular Science with a 2016 Invention Award, this technology is one of a series of advancements from the Langer Laboratory that can be implanted in the body or attached to the skin for long-term drug release. The researchers hope that this two-sided tablet could make it possible to deliver larger quantities of drugs through the GI tract. more...

Scouting Out Cancer

Girls Against Cancer! After several months of planning, KI researchers Rebecca Silberman (Amon Lab), Madeleine Oudin (Gerter Lab), and Jaime Cheah (HTS) debuted a new cancer research mini-course at the annual middle and high school STEM Expo presented by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts. Featuring colorful movies of cells dividing, slide-mounted samples of healthy and diseased tissue, and a wide range of pipetting tools, this interactive workshop invited participants to analyze data, examine the evidence for cancerous invasions, and race a robot to load multi-well plates for therapeutic screening. The day’s activities were well received by the scouts and are being adapted for a new activity offering in the KI’s ever-evolving student outreach program. more...

Evasive Tumors

Although targeted therapies have shown great promise in the treatment of many cancers, they do not work on all patients. Researchers in the laboratories of KI members Doug Lauffenburger and Frank Gertler have discovered why a certain class of these drugs, kinase inhibitors, does not always halt tumor growth. Their identification of a biological “back-up system” to overcome the inhibition suggests a potential avenue for new combination therapies to improve the performance of kinase inhibitors in a clinical setting. Read more. more...

Paving the Way for Metastasis

Ninety-percent of cancer deaths are caused by the spread of tumor cells to new parts of the body. In a wonderful example of convergence research, KI biologists and engineers Frank Gertler, Doug Lauffenburger, Bob Langer, Michael Cima, and Richard Hynes have uncovered how cancer cells take some of the first steps away from their original tumor sites. Their team discovered that cancer cells with a particular version of the Mena protein, MenaINV, can actually remodel their environment to make it easier for them to migrate to blood vessels and spread through the body. The paper, published in Cancer Discovery, outlined a correlation between high levels of MenaINV and metastasis, as well as earlier deaths among breast cancer patients. more...

Timing is of the Essence

Cancer patients often endure a battery of different drug treatments to find a therapy that works. Scientists have known for some time that genetics help explain why certain drugs may work on one person and not on another, but new findings by KI members Michael Hemann and Doug Lauffenburger suggest that the timing of these treatments may also be a critical factor. Tumors evolve through various stages, and the team’s study shows that sensitivity to a particular drug can depend on the stage at which it is administered. Their findings indicate that there may be windows of opportunity for drugs that had previously been written off as failures for individual patients. Hemann and Lauffenburger hope that modeling methods will predict tumor evolution and improve targeted therapies to help combat drug resistance. This research was supported in part by the Go Mitch Go Foundation. more...

Shooting for the Moon with Paula Hammond

When Vice President Joe Biden called for a “moonshot” to cure cancer, he emphasized the importance of bringing new therapies from laboratories to patients. In an op-ed for ACS NANO and during an MSNBC interview, Paula Hammond, a David H. Koch Professor in Engineering, laid out some of the groundbreaking new treatments making their way from labs to clinical settings. Hammond also emphasized the importance of increased funding to realize the potential of this science. These insights build on her remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There, Hammond was among the experts brought together by Vice President Biden to discuss potential opportunities to advance the pace of progress in the fight against cancer. more...

Fueling Cancer Growth

Glucose is the main source of fuel that cancer cells use to divide and reproduce uncontrollably. For some time, this had led scientists to believe that most of the cell mass in new cancer cells comes from glucose. Now new findings from a group including KI members Eisen and Chang Career Development Professor Matt Vander Heiden and Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor Scott Manalis, suggest that the largest source for new cell material is amino acids, which growing cells consume in considerably smaller quantities than glucose. The paper, published in Developmental Cell, offers a new way to look at cancer metabolism, a process that Vander Heiden mentioned in a recent NPR interview plays an important role in cancer development. more...

No Presents, Please; We’re Focused on the Future

MIT Building 76, home of the Koch Institute, turned five on March 4 and received a brand new set of images in its Public Galleries for the occasion. Backlit by LEDs and the promise of new discoveries, the towering, colorful canvases glow with a wide spectrum of possibilities. From stem cells to circuit boards, organoids to nanoparticles, the 2016 Image Awards exhibition celebrates the diversity of research coming out of MIT and provides the backdrop to this spring’s celebration of the KI anniversary and five years of biology and engineering under one roof. The KI exhibit also includes an image from Wellcome Images as a part of our annual image exchange, while the Wellcome judges selected ‘Launching a Satellite Liver from the Bhatia Laboratory. All 20 Wellcome Images are displayed at many venues across Europe and Africa. We congratulate this year’s winners and wish our entire community and a happy fifth birthday as we continue to fight cancer together. Read more and watch.  more...

Diet and Cancer

New research by KI members Omer Yilmaz and David Sabatini sheds light on how a high-fat diet can lead to an increased risk of colon cancer. The team, who published their results in Nature, found that mice fed a high-fat diet exhibit an increased proliferation of both intestinal stem cells and progenitor cells that acquire stemness, both of which increase the risk of tumor formation. If the results hold true for humans, they offer a clue to explain the mechanism by which a high-fat diet contributes to cancer risk. This work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund, and by the V Foundation. more...

Growing Healthy with the Gupta Lab

Like any Koch Institute Image Awards winning images, Gland of Opportunity (2015) and Duct Duct Goose (2016) from the Gupta Laboratory, are more than just pretty pictures. In this case, they are part of a much larger project to use three dimensional hydrogel scaffolds to grow viable human breast tissue in culture. These robust models, described in a recently published article in Breast Cancer Research, have great potential for studying normal mammary development as well as cancer formation. more...

KI Undergrad Receives Gates Scholarship

For the second time in three years, a KI undergraduate is among the recipients of the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Camilo Ruiz will pursue an advanced degree in computer science at Cambridge University in the UK. Working in the Langer laboratory, Ruiz helped to develop a cell-squeezing device named one of the top 10 world-changing ideas by Scientific American in 2014. Ruiz has also been active with Camp Kesem, a student-led organization that runs a free summer camp for children of cancer patients, serving as both an operations coordinator and a counselor. Established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship provides funding for talented students from outside the UK to study at Cambridge. more...

A Renaissance Woman for the Nano Age

From an early age, the KI’s Sangeeta Bhatia displayed an innate curiosity and desire to solve problems. Bhatia, who contributes to cancer diagnosis and treatment through fields as diverse as sensor technology, chemical biology, and engineering, has received an impressive array of awards and honors for her work. She is a recipient of the Lemelson-MIT Prize, the Packard Fellowship, and the Heinz Award, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Inventors. Bhatia’s passion extends beyond the lab as a leading voice in encouraging young women in STEM fields. Bhatia serves as advisor to the MIT Society of Women Engineers and is an advocate for female scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs at MIT and beyond. more...

License to Killian

It was standing room only when KI director Tyler Jacks delivered the James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award Lecture on February 11. Jacks was nominated by fellow MIT faculty members to receive the 2015 Killian Award for his leadership of the Koch Institute as well as his important contributions to cancer research. Members of the KI community honored him with a warm send off as he left the building to walk to the auditorium. Read the MIT News story here, see the pictures and watch the full lecture. more...

Totally AAASome news about Susan Hockfield

MIT President Emerita Susan Hockfield is a long-time supporter of making the scientific enterprise accessible and relevant to the public. Building on her strong career history of advocacy and research, Hockfield has been elected to serve as the next president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She joined the Executive Committee of the AAAS Board of Directors on February 16 and will retain the role of president-elect for one year, followed by a term as president in 2017 and a term as chair of the AAAS Board of Directors in 2018. more...

A CRISPR Delivery

The gene-editing technique CRISPR, which allows scientists to clip a specific DNA sequence and replace it with a new one, could offer cures for a wide-range of diseases caused by defective genes. However, in order for the technology to realize its full potential, researchers must find a way to safely deliver the CRISPR machinery and corrected copies of the DNA into diseased cells. Now a team including KI faculty members Daniel G. Anderson and Robert Langer, as well as Jacks Laboratory alumnus Wen Xue, assistant professor in molecular medicine at UMASS Medical School, have developed a combined nanoparticle and viral delivery system to deliver the CRISPR repair components more efficiently and safely than previously possible. more...

A Fitting Tribute

When David Bowie passed away following a battle with liver cancer in January, the music world lost a figure whose contributions and influence spanned five decades. In honor of the rock icon, MIT professor Evan Ziporyn assembled a volunteer orchestra to perform a Bowie tribute concert in MIT’s Kresge auditorium to benefit the Koch Institute’s Frontier Fund for cancer research at MIT. Like Bowie's music, the Frontier Research Program seeks to defy convention by supporting exciting, interdisciplinary investigations and advancing highly innovative, early-stage cancer research projects often overlooked by traditional funding mechanisms. See coverage of the concert from The Boston Globeand Vanyaland (which includes a video of the orchestra's performance of Bowie's 'Let's Dance'). more...

Tag-teaming Proteins

Currently, the best method for tracking specific molecules inside a living cell involves tagging proteins with a fluorescent label such as green fluorescent protein (GFP). While this approach has led to significant breakthroughs, GFP and similar tags are bulky and may interfere with the cell's natural functions. These systems are also unable to tag endogenous proteins (proteins that occur naturally in the cell). Therefore, observations of the tagged proteins' behavior may or may not be representative of how natural proteins behave. A team including David H. Koch Institute Professor Robert Langer and Armon Sharei (during his time as a KI postdoc) has developed a new method based on their patented cell-squeezing technique. The researchers employed this approach to deliver fluorescent tags that were far less bulky to cells, improving both the ease and efficiency of the protein-imaging process in living cells. Unlike with the GFP tags, their concept is also applicable to endogenous proteins.The team believes that the technique should work with nearly any type of cell and that, with further advances, it will help scientists learn much more about how proteins function. more...

KI Engineering Solutions: Not Just for Cancer

For people suffering from Type I diabetes, blood-sugar monitoring and insulin injection are a way of life. Even employing these tools, precise control of blood sugar is difficult to achieve and patients can face a variety of long-term medical problems. A better treatment, many experts believe, would be replacing destroyed pancreatic islet cells with healthy ones that can take over glucose monitoring and insulin release. Unfortunately, because the immune system attacks these transplanted cells, patients who undergo this treatment are required to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives. To tackle this problem, researchers from the Koch Institute, along with colleagues at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and several other institutions, have created a material to encapsulate islet cells before transplanting them. The KI’s Daniel G. Anderson was the senior author of dual papers in Nature Medicine and Nature Biotechnology that showed that these encapsulated human cells can cure diabetes in mice for up to six months without producing an immune response. more...

Tackling a Global Challenge

With no regard for political boundaries, cancer is an issue of international import and all countries have a stake in defeating the disease. At the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Paula Hammond, the David H. Koch Professor in Engineering and recently-appointed head of MIT's Department of Chemical Engineering, joined Vice President Joe Biden and a panel of experts from around the world to discuss the future of cancer research and the Vice President’s call for a “moonshot” to find a cure. Hammond spoke about the massive strides being made in the field and the transformative potential of interdisciplinary approaches to research. Following the event, she joined Tom Ashbrook of WBUR’s On Point to recap the meeting with the Vice President. more...

Yes, it's the right time for a “Moonshot”

Following the death of his oldest son Beau from brain cancer last year, Vice President Joe Biden called for “a moonshot in this country to cure cancer” and pledged to dedicate the rest of his term to fighting the disease. The cause was officially endorsed by his boss during the 2016 State of the Union address when President Obama announced a new national effort to support cancer research. Michael Yaffe, the David H. Koch Professor of Science, joined WBUR’s Radio Boston to talk about why now is such a critical time for the cancer research field and explain how the KI’s interdisciplinary approach provides such an ideal model of how to, as Biden has urged, “break down silos and bring all the cancer fighters together." more...

Fresh Material(s Science)

When it comes to cancer, the immune system can be a double-edged sword. In some contexts it can contribute to the inflammation that spurs tumor development while in others it provides the best weapon for countering metastatic disease. Being able to control these immune responses could have major implications for treatment. According to the KI’s Darrell Irvine, materials science could hold the key to overcoming the challenges facing the fields of immunology and immunotherapy. In a recent Nature Reviews piece, Irvine outlines three of the greatest challenges for immune engineering and possible materials-based solutions. more...

Sustained Investment for Sustained Progress

Less than four months after doctors found melanoma growths in his brain, 90-year-old former President Jimmy Carter declared that he was tumor-free after receiving the latest immunotherapy treatment. The recent breakthroughs that led to the development of his treatment illustrate how far researchers have come in just the past few years, but there is more work to be done. Further advances depend on strong financial support for basic and clinical research, argue the KI’s Phil Sharp and William G. Nelson of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in a recent op-ed for The Hill. Sharp and Nelson point out that as federal research budgets have failed to keep pace with inflation, only sustained investment will allow researchers and clinicians to actually deliver new, life-saving therapies currently under development. more...

KI Alum to head Salk Cancer Center

Jacks Laboratory alum Reuben Shaw Ph.D. has been named the new director of the Salk's National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center.  He succeeds Tony Hunter who headed the center for the past eight years. Like the KI, the Salk is among seven National Cancer Institute-designated basic research cancer centers in the country. Shaw has conducted groundbreaking research on the relationship between metabolic pathways and the spread of cancer. His work helped lead to the discovery of new treatments for both cancer and type II diabetes. more...

A Cellular Family Tree

Members of Scott Manalis’s lab, in collaboration with the Shalek lab at MIT, have successfully mapped the genetic histories of cells descended from a common ancestor cell. Using an advanced RNA-sequencing technique and a new microfluidic device they designed to trap individual cells and their descendants, the researchers were able to capture up to five generations of cells and map their relationships. The team also found that they could use the technique to learn which genes are expressed at different points during cell division. The research, which was published in Nature Communications, could have a variety of applications including the study of cancer development as well as help immune and stem-cell maturation. more...

KI Helps Surgeons Light Up Cancer

For patients with solid cancers, surgical resection of their tumor is a critical early step in treatment. However, about a third of patients require a second surgery because their tumor has regrown. Koch Institute researchers, along with colleagues at Duke University, developed a technology to help surgeons remove cancer cells more effectively, reducing the chance that tumors can grow back. The system involves an injectable fluorescing molecule that highlights cancer cells in the tumor margin, and a hand-held imager that uses a specific frequency of light to illuminate them down to single-cell detection. Currently in commercial development by Boston-area biotech and Koch Institute spinoff Lumicell, the technology was recently deemed safe and potentially effective in phase 1 clinical trials, the results of which appeared in Science Translational Medicine. Further trials are currently enrolling at Massachusetts General Hospital and other clinical centers. If all continues to go well, Lumicell anticipates FDA approval of the technology in 2017. This research, conducted by a team including KI member Linda Griffith, W. David Lee, and MIT professor Moungi Bawendi, began as one of the first projects launched through the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program and was supported by the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund. more...

Cell-ebrate Style with new KI Image-inspired Jewelry

Brace yourself for a new wave of gift giving. The MIT Museum Store, a longstanding source of MIT-inspired apparel, toys, and accessories, has launched a new line of jewelry featuring images from the Koch Institute Image Awards. The inaugural pieces, four resin cuff bracelets, draw on award-winning biology research from the Hynes and Gupta laboratories, proving true the accompanying label—that discovery and innovation are always in style. more...