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

Cancer Metabolism Makes Its Mark

For the second year in a row, a KI alum has been named a winner of the Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists! Jared Mayers — a former doctoral student in the Vander Heiden Lab and now a resident in internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital — was selected for the prize based on the work described in his essay, "Metabolic markers as cancer clues." The essay recounts Mayers' investigations, which revealed 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. The team's findings suggest a shifting paradigm for personalized medicine, in which context plays as critical a role as the genetic drivers. In recognition of his illuminating research and essay, Mayers — similarly to 2016 Prize Winner and KI alum Canan Dagdeviren — will travel to Stockholm to receive his medal and attend the 2017 Nobel Prize Ceremony. Read Mayers' award-winning essay heremore...

Bhatia in the Spotlight

What an exciting few months it has been for KI member and Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine Director Sangeeta Bhatia! Perhaps most notably, her work combining nanotechnology and medicine to develop cancer diagnostics garnered Xconomy's prestigious "Innovation at the Intersection" award. She was also honored with a Catalyst Award from the Science Club for Girls to celebrate her trailblazing work in support of girls' engagement in STEM. For Women's Equality Day, Johnson & Johnson featured Bhatia, one of their five female biotech superstars who want to change the future of healthcare, for her work as co-founder of Glympse Bio. The startup is commercializing low-cost urinary diagnostics, developed in Bhatia's KI laboratory and previously supported by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program. Her work as a multimodal inventor was also profiled by Ludwig Cancer Research. Finally, Bhatia herself penned a guest post for the National Academy of Sciences for National Nanotechnology Day. more...

One of 32 recipients nationwide for 2018, Mary Clare Beytagh is the second Jacks Lab UROP in three years to be given this prestigious academic distinction.

Following the Rhodes to Success

Congratulations to Jacks Lab UROP and newly-named Rhodes Scholar Mary Clare Beytagh! One of 32 recipients nationwide for 2018, Beytagh is the second Jacks Lab UROP in three years to be given this prestigious academic distinction. She was also recently featured by MIT News in a profile detailing her various successes and interests in the fields of medicine, science, ballet, and poetry. Beytagh hopes to one day complete a MD-PhD program in cancer biology and apply her passion for writing towards telling stories that humanize patients and focus on the social and economic determinants of health. Read more. more...

The Manalis Lab has taken an important step in demonstrating that they can accurately predict how tumors will respond to treatment, before treatment is given.

Manalis Mirrors Multiple Myeloma Response Rates

And the KI is nine for nine! Comparing measurements of cancer cell mass accumulation rates obtained using their signature cell-weighing technology to patient outcomes, the Manalis Lab has taken an important step in demonstrating that they can accurately predict how tumors will respond to treatment, before treatment is given. Building on previous work conducted under the auspices of the Bridge Project, researchers at the KI and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute tested a variety of drugs and combination therapies on tumor cells from nine multiple myeloma patients. In all of the pilot study's cases, measurements of cells' sensitivity and resistance in the lab matched patient response to actual treatment in the clinic. The team is now working to validate their approach in a larger clinical study and hopes to expand their investigations to include other cancer types as well. Read more. more...

The KI's Ritu Raman and Andrew Warren were chosen out of thousands of young visionaries to be honored by Forbes 30 Under 30 for 2018.

KI Overachievers Under 30

With impressive track records in biomedical engineering and unwavering commitment to improving human health, the KI's Ritu Raman and Andrew Warren were chosen out of thousands of young visionaries to be honored by Forbes 30 Under 30 in the categories of Science and Health, respectively. Raman, a postdoctoral fellow in the KI's Langer Lab who was also recently named a L’Oréal USA For Women in Science Fellow, was selected for her research studying the dynamic interactions between biological and synthetic materials and developing bio-hybrid systems to tackle different applications. Warren is an alumnus of the KI's Bhatia Lab and now founding scientist and product development lead at Glympse Bio. He was selected for his work using modular nanoparticle sensors to create diagnostics for such diseases as cancer, clotting disorders, and liver fibrosis. Learn more about all of this year's Forbes 30 Under 30 recipients here. more...

KI researchers in the Anderson and Langer Labs have developed nanoparticles to safely and efficiently deliver CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing to cells.

CRISPR Goes Non-viral!

News worth following! KI researchers in the Anderson and Langer Labs have developed nanoparticles to safely and efficiently deliver CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing to cells, overcoming several of the challenges associated with more traditional methods that rely on benign viruses to transport their cargo. The team's nonviral delivery system includes an enhanced RNA guide molecule, whose chemical modifications were inspired by the structure of the original protein/RNA complex. Their approach successfully deleted disease-causing genes in adult mice, reducing their cholesterol levels and opening new possibilities for CRISPR-mediated treatments. Click here and share to help this work go non-viral! more...

Liquid biopsies hold expanded potential for increasing numbers of patients, thanks to improved techniques developed by researchers at the KI, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and MGH Cancer Center.

Special Biops: Cell-Free DNAgents in the Field

Liquid biopsies hold expanded potential for increasing numbers of patients, thanks to improved techniques developed by researchers at the KI, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and MGH Cancer Center. By analyzing fragments of DNA expelled by cancer cells into the bloodstream, the team, led by Love Lab alumnus Viktor Adalsteinsson, was able to detect and profile the mutations present in these tumors, presenting a viable alternative to traditional biopsy sequencing. Their non-invasive “cell-free” approach offers particular promise for understanding metastatic cancer progression and evolution of treatment response in advanced disease states. The team’s initial work was supported in part by a TRANSCEND grant through the KI's alliance with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. more...

New research from the Jacks Lab investigates whether PDAC cells are dependent on KRAS for their growth.

Kicking Cancer’s KRAS

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the third leading cause of cancer death in the US and despite some advances in treatment approaches, the long-term survival of patients remains extremely poor. Mutations in KRAS are a hallmark of this cancer type, occurring in >90% of cases, making this gene an attractive therapeutic target. New research from the laboratory of Tyler Jacks, a David H. Koch Professor of Biology and director of the Koch Institute, investigated whether PDAC cells are dependent on KRAS for their growth. Using CRISPR/ Cas9 to completely delete KRAS, the researchers determined that a subset of PDAC cells are still able to survive. However, the cells that do survive are sensitive to inhibitors of the PI3K pathway, suggesting that the simultaneous inhibition of KRAS and PI3K would be a viable combinatorial therapeutic strategy.  more...

Aren't they Wunder-ful?

Salil Garg (Sharp Lab), Jiang He (Bhatia Lab), and Michael Mitchell (Langer Lab) were all named 2017 STAT Wunderkinds for their work "blazing new trails as they attempt to answer some of the biggest questions in medicine." Langer Lab alumni Carl Schoellhammer, CEO of Suonobio, and Armon Sharei, CEO of SQZ Biotech, were both among Business Insider's 30 biotech leaders under 40 list.  Sharei also received the "Young Innovator" award at this year's Xconomy Awards! more...

Researchers in the laboratory of KI member Timothy Lu have been working to develop targeted immunotherapies to attack cancer cells.

Bait and Switch for Targeted Immunotherapy

Researchers in the laboratory of KI member Timothy Lu have been working to develop targeted immunotherapies to attack cancer cells. Through the use of customized DNA/RNA sequences, the team has designed a synthetic gene circuit that is activated by transcriptional signals expressed by tumor cells, triggering a combinatorial immune response. Their bioengineered "switch" requires two cancer-specific signals to be present before it turns on, making it more accurate than current therapies, and can also be customized to recognize and target different cancer types. more...

Ritu Raman, a postdoc in the Langer Lab at the Koch Institute at MIT, has been named a 2017 L’Oréal USA for Women in Science Fellow.

Ritu Raman named L’Oréal USA for Women in Science Fellow

In recognition of her contributions to the advancement of STEM fields and for her support of women and girls in science, Langer Lab postdoc Ritu Raman has been awarded the L’Oréal USA For Women in Science Fellowship. The L’Oréal USA For Women in Science Fellowship recognizes female scientists at a critical early stage in their careers with grants to advance their postdoctoral research. Raman, who was also recently named one of six Convergence Scholars by the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, plans to use her L’Oréal USA award funds to support her research developing bio-hybrid materials for long-term sensing and drug delivery and her collaborations with scientists, engineers, and clinicians across the country. A staunch advocate for STEM education and outreach, Ritu hopes to one day open her own lab to teach others how to build with adaptive materials and develop curricula that explore the ethics and mechanics of building with biology. more...

Richard Hynes, Koch Institute at MIT member and Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research, named the recipient of the 2017 David Rall Medal from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM).

Hynes Receives National Academy of Medicine Honor

Congratulations to KI member and Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research, Richard Hynes, for being named the recipient of the 2017 David Rall Medal from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). Hynes was chosen for his leadership as the co-chair of the NAM/NAS Report Committee on Human Genome Editing. To honor his recent award, Hynes sat down with NAM to discuss his research, his inspiration for getting involved in policy work, and his thoughts on how to better engage public interest in science and medicine — read here. more...

Jacks Lab researchers are exploring a new way to treat aggressive lung cancer driven by "undruggable" mutations in the KRAS gene.

Finders KEAPers

Jacks Lab researchers are exploring a new way to treat aggressive lung cancer driven by "undruggable" mutations in the KRAS gene. A second gene, KEAP1, is mutated alongside KRAS in about 17% of lung adenocarcinoma cases. The team discovered that in those cases, the cancer cells rely on the use of glutamine, an amino acid essential for metabolic processes, as an energy source. Inhibiting glutaminase, an enzyme critical for glutamine metabolism, would thus offer a new method to treat tumors that harbor KRAS and KEAP1 mutations. Indeed, the researchers found that blocking glutaminase, using the small molecule inhibitor CB-839, reduced tumor growth in culture and in mice. These findings, described in Nature Medicine, offer a potential strategy for identifying the lung cancer patients that would likely respond well to CB-839 in the clinic. CB-839 is currently in Phase 1 clinical trials for KRAS-mutant lung cancer. more...

A collaborative team from the Hemann, Lees, and Sharp laboratories has identified a mechanism that helps glioblastomas grow aggressively.

Heads Together for Brain Cancer

Researchers from the Hemann, Lees, and Sharp laboratories joined forces in the fight against glioblastoma. Using a novel screen, the collaborative team identified PRMT5 as a protein involved in the tumors’ growth, and found that PRMT5 uses a special type of gene splicing to promote this growth.The researchers showed that inhibiting PRMT5 halted cancer cell growth in mice, and also identified a biomarker that could be used to predict which patients would benefit from treatment with existing PRMT5 inhibitors, at least one of which is currently in clinical trials for cancer. Their findings, described in Cancer Cell, help explain PRMT5’s poorly understood role in cancer and offer opportunities to improve current therapies and develop new ones. The team hopes to develop nanoparticles to help PRMT5 inhibitors cross the blood-brain barrier, and is also looking at PRMT5’s role in other tumor types. This work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund. Read more and watch recent Lees Lab PhD recipient Monica Stanciu present this research as part of the Koch Institute’s SOLUTIONS with/in/sight: Fast-Moving Frontiers program. more...

Langer Receives Kabiller Prize

There's na-no ifs, ands, or buts about it — nanotechnology is clearly a driving force in the prolific career of Robert Langer, member of the KI and the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine. For his work on the design and development of novel carriers for improved small molecule drug delivery, Langer was awarded the 2017 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine from Northwestern University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology. The Kabiller Prize honors outstanding achievement in the field of nanotechnology and its application to medicine and biology. Read more about Langer's latest honor, view the accompanying video, or listen to him on the NorthwesternU podcast. more...

Rave Tech Reviews for KI Community Members

The September/October issue of MIT Technology Review celebrates the accomplishments of three Koch Institute community members. A powerful feature story about Nancy Hopkins, KI member and MIT professor emerita, reflects on her role as a leading force for gender equity in science, the increased opportunities for women in science and engineering that have emerged at MIT and beyond as a result of her efforts, and the work that is still underway in this area. Another highlight of the issue is the 2017 list of "35 Innovators Under 35," where you can spot Love Lab alumnus Viktor Adalsteinsson in the "Visionaries" category for his work on liquid biopsies for early cancer detection and monitoring treatment response. And last, but certainly not least, Paula Hammond shines in an alumna profile focused on her career and current work creating nanoscale biomaterials to improve cancer treatments. more...

The Comings and Goings of KI Faculty Members

The Koch Institute bids a fond farewell to members Stephen Lippard and Leona Samson in their retirement, and welcomes Bradley Pentelute to the KI fold.

Samson, who has been a cancer researcher for more than 40 years, joined the MIT faculty in 2001, where she has held appointments in the departments of Biology and Biological Engineering. Her work has focused on DNA repair; now, in retirement, she will alternate between Oxford, England and Cambridge, Massachusetts — we sincerely hope she won't be a stranger!

Lippard, who completed his PhD at MIT in 1965 and has been a professor in the Department of Chemistry since 1983, is now the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor Emeritus. Koch Institute devotees are familiar with Lippard's work as "the father of bioinorganic chemistry," and his efforts to find new medicines for cancer. He will no doubt remain active at the Institute through the annual Lippard Lecture, held in honor of his late wife Judith Ann Lippard.

New extramural faculty member, Pentelute, an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry, is inspired by biopolymers found in nature. His lab aims to invent new chemistry to modify proteins to enhance their therapeutic properties for human medicine. Pentelute joined the MIT faculty in 2011, received tenure in 2017, and joins KI members Stefani Spranger and Eliezer Calo as the newest faculty members of the Koch Institute family. Welcome, all! more...

New Academic Year Brings New KI Leadership

The Koch Institute is pleased to announce that KI faculty members Darrell Irvine and Matthew Vander Heiden have joined the Institute's leadership team as Associate Directors.

Irvine, Professor of Biological Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering, will step into this role to lead the Koch Institute's engineering initiatives and serve as a liaison with MIT's School of Engineering. Similarly, Vander Heiden, Associate Professor of Biology, will guide the KI's life sciences cohort and work closely with MIT's School of Science. With KI Director Tyler Jacks at the helm, Irvine and Vander Heiden join current Associate Director Jacqueline Lees, who has been an integral part of the leadership of the Koch Institute since its inception and of the Center for Cancer Research for six years before that. In addition to her continued involvment in all aspects of the administration, Lees will also continue to bring particular oversight to the 12 core facilities within the Swanson Biotechnology Center along with Sarah Farrington, Core Faciltities Administrator.

Dane Wittrup, who has served as Associate Director since the Koch Institute's founding in 2007, is stepping down from the leadership team. "I have very much enjoyed working with Dane in this capacity and thank him for his hard work and dedication," KI Director Tyler Jacks said. "I look forward to his continued contributions to the KI in the years ahead."

With fresh faces, new ideas, and sustained focus on representing our strengths in both engineering and life sciences, the 2017-2018 academic year is off to an exciting start at the KI! more...

Researchers, physicians, and patients alike received encouraging news this fall from MIT startup Alnylam, a pioneer in the field of RNA interference (RNAi) therapy.

Moving RNAi Forward

Researchers, physicians, and patients alike received encouraging news this fall from MIT startup Alnylam, a pioneer in the field of RNA interference (RNAi) therapy. The pharmaceutical company, founded in 2002 by a team of scientists, including KI faculty member and MIT Institute Professor Phillip Sharp, announced the first-ever positive Phase 3 results for an RNAi therapeutic. This news opens up a new class of medicines for gene therapy in multiple areas as RNAi is disease-agnostic. Sharp Lab alumnus Andrew Fire received the Nobel Prize in 2006, along with Craig Mello, for its discovery; many current KI researchers are working to advance RNAi and related technologies. more...

A Strand-ing Ovation for mRNA Delivery

Weaving together expertise in polymer science and chemical engineering with inspiration from nature, Hammond Lab researchers — as published in Angewandte Chemie — have designed a bioinspired delivery system for messenger RNA (mRNA) that is far more efficient than delivering these strands of genetic material on their own. mRNA holds great promise for treating disease, including cancer, but presents numerous challenges in delivering them to cells for high gene expression. The team's approach, attaching poly-A binding proteins to the mRNA tail and assembling the complex with a polymer, translates into more effective delivery to ribosomes for increased production of desired proteins. This work was supported in part by a Koch Institute Quinquennial Cancer Research Fellowship. Read more. more...

Ultrasonic Power, Start The Engine!

Langer Lab startup Suono Bio continues to ride the waves of success — this month, the company was selected as one of seven founding startups to receive investment from The Engine, MIT's new "tough-tech" development venture. Co-founded by lab members Carl Schoellhammer and Gio Traverso, along with David H. Koch Institute Professor Robert Langer and Amy Schulman of Polaris Partners, Suono Bio is developing technology to rapidly deliver drugs, proteins, vaccines, and other molecules directly into the gastrointestinal tract using ultrasound waves. The company, led by Schoellhammer as CEO, competed with 500 different startups to receive long-term funding, resources, and services from The Engine's inaugural investment cycle. Read more. more...

Three KI Faculty Members Honored by the NIH

Congratulations to KI members Michael Yaffe, Graham Walker, and Robert Weinberg for receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) Outstanding Investigator Awards from two NIH institutes. Yaffe, the David H. Koch Professor of Science, and Walker, an American Cancer Society Professor, received their respective awards through the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; both investigators' work concerns cellular response to DNA damage. Robert Weinberg, a Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research and director of the KI's Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology, has been given his Outstanding Investigator Award through the National Cancer Institute to further his investigations of metastasis. All three awards aim to support accomplished researchers as they "embark on long-term projects of unusual potential." Read more. more...

More Shots, Please!

... said no child ever. A new technology developed in the Langer Lab and recently described in Science may harbinger an all-in-one vaccine benefitting kids everywhere — especially in the developing world, where healthcare access and patient compliance can be challenging. A team headed by research scientist Ana Jaklenec invented a new 3-D fabrication method that creates microparticles to encapsulate both the initial dose and subsequent boosters of multiple vaccines or drugs. The particles, which resemble a coffee cup with a lid, are designed to break down and "spill" their contents at precise, predictable times. Unlike the extended release drug delivery technologies Langer is known for, these microparticles deliver short bursts of a drug at specific time intervals, to mimic the way a vaccine series is given. Read more or check out additional coverage from Boston Magazine and BBC News. more...

What I Did On My Summer Vacation, by KI Startups

KI faculty startups spent the summer hard at work making their mark on the biotech scene — and for some, their efforts resulted in exciting news. In addition to CEO and Langer Lab alum Armon Sharei's nomination for Xconomy's "Young Innovator" award, SQZ Biotech was recognized as one of the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers for 2017. Tiba Biotech took home the gold at swissnex Boston's Annual Global Pitch Fest for their rapid vaccine development platform. Lyndra has been chosen as a Hive 2017 Innovator and CEO Amy Schulman (another Xconomy Awards finalist, in the "Newcomer" category) will be taking the TEDMED stage this fall to share its exciting progress. Rubius Therapeutics, with help from Flagship Pioneering, raised one of the largest biotech financing rounds this year and pulled out of stealth mode. Sigilon also won substantial support to move its encapsulation technology for cell therapy toward the clinic. Also on the clinical front, Selecta Biosciences announced data from Phase 2 clinical trials and Verastem from Phase 2 long-term follow-up trials. CRISPR Therapeutics launched a new research collaboration with another KI startup, Neon Therapeutics (whose personalized cancer vaccines have been generating buzz), and teamed up with Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center to formulate a novel immunotherapy using gene-editing. In other immuno-oncology news, Dragonfly Therapeutics (also an Xconomy Awards finalist) announced a strategic collaboration with Celgene to discover and develop new natural killer cell-based immunotherapies, while Torque's "deep-primed" immune cell therapeutics finished up their preclinical studies just in time for the company's move to a new home in Kendall Square. Finally, Lumicell (whose technology was initially developed with support from the KI's signature Frontier Research Program) announced significant advancements in their tools for image-guided cancer surgery. Between their latest clinical data, financing, honors, and new collaborations, these companies are well poised to make a difference in the lives of patients. more...

Hit the Road Against Ovarian Cancer

Sisters Against Ovarian Cancer (SAOC), a Medford-based grassroots advocacy group dedicated to increasing ovarian cancer awareness and research, and improving clinical detection and treatment options, is holding its 10th annual walk on September 9. Proceeds from the walk support the SAOC Koch Institute Frontier Research Fund, enabling early stage, game-changing cancer research through the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program. For example, an implantable device for less toxic, more effective chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, was featured this spring in SOLUTIONS with/in/sight: Fast Moving Frontiers. Held in memory of SAOC founder Marie Spinale, the five-mile walk begins rain or shine outside the Stone Zoo and circles scenic Spot Pond. Registration and event information are here – we invite you to lace ‘em up and join us as we recognize this special 10th anniversary, and SAOC’s important work to unseat ovarian cancer as the most deadly gynecologic malignancy. more...

The Bridge Project and KI Community Members Named 2017 Xconomy Awards Finalists

Congratulations to KI members, startups, collaborators, and friends who have been selected as finalists for the 2017 Xconomy Awards! We're rooting for the Bridge Project, our collaboration with Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, to win big in the "Big Idea" category, for KI faculty member Sangeeta Bhatia to take home the "Innovation at the Intersection" Award, and for KI immuno-oncology spin-off Dragonfly Therapeutics to knock it out of the park in the "Startup" field. We're also proud to see two KI alumni—Armon Sharei of SQZ Biotech and Andrew Warren of Glympse Bio—in the "Young Innovator" category. The Xconomy Awards recognize people, companies, and organizations working in all life science industries around the Boston area and New England. Winners will be announced at the Xconomy Awards Gala on September 26. more...

Proceed with Caution: Hynes Gives Guidance Following Gene Editing Breakthrough

KI faculty member Richard Hynes has been making the rounds of various media outlets to discuss implications of the announcement by Oregon Health & Science University researchers that they have successfully edited genes in human embryos to repair a mutation that causes a common and potentially deadly heart condition. Hynes, who co-chaired the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine Study Committee that issued the Human Genome Editing Report earlier this year, appeared in The New York Times and on Charlie Rose to underscore the committee's initial recommendations about the important ethical and societal issues that need to be addressed in deciding what should and should not be allowed as additional technical challenges are overcome. Read more about the original report on MIT News. more...

Satellite Liver from Launch to Liftoff

The Bhatia Lab’s satellite liver, previously seen in the KI Public Galleries as part of the 2016 Image Awards exhibition, is reaching new heights with the publication of a new paper in Science Translational Medicine. In it, investigators describe how their engineered liver tissue integrates with other cells in the body and expands production of hepatocytes to perform normal liver function in mice with damaged livers. The team is now working to refine and expand their approach to accelerate the impact these engineered “organoids" can have on patients who suffer from liver diseases, including liver cancer. Read more, and watch an interview with one of the image’s creators here. more...

Sasisekharan Wins Agilent Thought Leader Award

Congratulations to KI member Ram Sasisekharan, the Alfred H. Caspary Professor of Biological Engineering and Health Sciences and Technology in the Department of Biological Engineering, for winning an Agilent Thought Leader Award for his contributions in the field of biologics characterization. Comprised of financial support, Agilent products, and expertise, the Agilent Thought Leader Award will help the Sasisekharan Lab, located within the Koch Institute, further refine an approach that aims to shorten the development time between biopharmaceutical product design and clinical use. more...

Honoring the Lippard Legacy

Congratulations to KI member Stephen J. Lippard, the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry, on his upcoming retirement and for being named to the 2017 cohort of Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center's "the one hundred," which annually celebrates 100 individuals and groups who display outstanding efforts — from caregiving to research to philanthropy to advocacy — in the fight against cancer. Recognized for his groundbreaking research in platinum-based cancer therapeutics, and his commitment to education and mentoring, Lippard's stake in this work is both professional and personal. He lost his wife, Judy, to endometrial cancer in 2013, and to honor her memory, Lippard — along with sons Josh and Alex — created the Judith Ann Lippard Memorial Lectureship to honor individuals whose research has the possibility to change the face of women’s cancers. In addition to giving a formal lecture at MIT and delivering Grand Rounds at MGH, the Lippard Lecturer also spends time with trainees, researchers, and physician-scientists at both institutions, inspiring the best and brightest young minds to advance cancer therapies. more...

Langer: Unplugged

How will advances in biotechnology — and the next generation of biotech researchers — continue to shift the paradigm of health and medicine? The KI’s Robert Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor, sat down with CNBC biotech reporter Meg Tirrell in a P4C Unplugged interview at the Partnering for Cures Meeting this summer to discuss what’s next for biotech. Langer also shared anecdotes about how he started his career and how the people who surround him — particularly in his lab — set him and his ideas up for success. Watch the conversation here. more...

Who Needs Metal? Alternative Rocks!

Researchers in the laboratory of KI collaborator and MIT chemistry professor Jeremiah Johnson have developed a metal-free MRI contrast agent, in the form of nanoparticles loaded with nitroxide molecules, that could be safer for some patients and enable long-term tumor imaging. As described recently in ACS Central Science, and building on previous work conducted in collaboration with the KI's Hammond Lab, the group was able to improve the stability and contrast of the imaging agent while decreasing its toxicity so that it can remain in the bloodstream long enough to accumulate in a tumor without damaging surrounding tissue. The researchers are now refining their particles to carry drugs so they can monitor a therapy's effectiveness against tumors, and to couple the particles to antibodies or immune cells to track biological processes or treatment response in the body.  more...

Versatile Nanomedicine

Resistance is futile — especially when the Bhatia Lab leverages cancer-fighting technology to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Applying concepts, designs, and materials from their signature tumor-penetrating nanoparticles, the researchers have designed a new system to fight infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa (a bacterium that can lead to serious illnesses including pneumonia), with minimal side effects. Among the repurposed components in these biodegradable, silicon nanoparticles is a special membrane-penetrating peptide. This peptide is critical because the bacteria of interest have not one, but two cell membranes, which prevent entry to other drugs, and it works synergistically with an antimicrobial peptide, to which it is attached. The team also plans to design an inhalable version of their particles, with a third peptide to target the nanoparticles to the correct location in the body, boldly going where no peptides have gone before.  more...

The Proof is in the Proximity

Anecdotal evidence abounds in support of the Koch Institute's position as a leader in collaboration at MIT, but we now have the quantitative data to prove it! A new study from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, published in PLOS ONE, shows that the KI has the highest rate of intra-MIT co-authorship (roughly 32 percent) and the second highest rate of intra-MIT patent collaboration (27 percent). Both data points are a testament to the KI's success in bringing scientists and engineers together to encourage innovative and interdisciplinary approaches in cancer research. Read here to learn how close physical proximity promotes collaboration and cross-disciplinary research at MIT. more...

Converging on Cancer on the Nanoscale

This summer, we mark the first anniversary of the launch of our Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, established through a generous gift from Kathy and Curt Marble ’63. Bringing together leading Koch Institute faculty members and their teams, the Marble Center focuses on grand challenges in cancer detection, treatment, and monitoring that can benefit from the emerging biology and physics of the nanoscale. In its first year, the Center funded six transformative research projects in the areas of drug delivery and immunotherapy, established a scientific advisory board, and provided fellowship support for trainees, along with valuable opportunities for mentorship, scientific exchange, and professional development. We look forward to continued success and progress at the interface of nanotechnology and medicine. more...

The Importance of Being Convergent

On June 16, cancer research enthusiasts from the MIT community and beyond gathered for the Koch Institute’s 16th Annual Summer Symposium, “Convergence of Science and Engineering in Cancer" to learn about interdisciplinary approaches and new technologies to better understand, detect, monitor, and treat cancer. The event featured dynamic speakers that represented different facets of interdisciplinary research, and an exciting panel on the future of medical care made up of top biomedical experts and industry executives. It was an enlightening event, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s symposium — which will be dedicated to nanomedicine in cancer and held on Friday, June 15, 2018. Read more about the 2017 Koch Institute Summer Symposium and watch this year’s talks here. more...

Boston Biotech Shines Bright

On Independence Day, moments before the legendary Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular lit up skies and screens alike, Bloomberg Television viewers were treated to a dazzling display celebrating the city's preeminence in biotechnology and medicine. Featuring local leaders from biotech and healthcare, including the KI's Sangeeta Bhatia and Robert Langer, the clip was bursting with history and insight, highlighting the community's unparalleled commitment to fostering innovation in medicine. Watch video. more...

Tenure, They Wrote

Congratulations to resident KI faculty member Matthew Vander Heiden for being awarded tenure. Vander Heiden, an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology, is breaking new ground in the research area of cancer metabolism and is the recipient of numerous awards from such organizations as the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, Stand Up to Cancer, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He joins KI collaborators Bradley Pentelute and Jeremiah Johnson from the Department of Chemistry as one of seven newly tenured members of MIT's School of Science. Also among the newly tenured ranks are extramural KI faculty member Timothy Lu from the Departments of Biological Engineering and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and KI collaborators Polina Anikeeva from the Department of Material Sciences and Engineering and Katharina Ribbeck from the Department of Biological Engineering. more...

Understanding the Spread of Lung Cancer

In a collaborative effort, researchers from the Jacks and Hynes laboratories applied quantitative proteomics to identify microenvironmental regulators of lung cancer metastasis. Their study, published in PNAS, identifies Tenascin-C, an extracellular matrix protein, as a novel lung cancer metastasis promoter and demonstrates the prognostic value of Tenascin-C expression for lung-cancer-patient survival. This study paves the way for future explorations of the tumor microenvironment, underexplored sources of diagnostic markers, and potential therapeutic targets for cancer patients. more...

Cell Cycle Arrest and Immune Surveillance

Attention aneuploid cells: You have the right to remain senescent. Unless of course you begin producing pro-inflammatory signals that are recognized by the immune system. New research from the KI's Amon Lab reveals how cells containing an improper number of chromosomes — a condition known as aneuploidy — are detected and eliminated by natural killer cells following periods of genomic instability leading to cell cycle arrest (when cells become senescent, ceasing to grow or divide). These results, published in Developmental Cell, present an intriguing connection between aneuploidy and immune surveillance, and raise even more intriguing questions about how cancer cells, which are highly aneuploid, are able divide uncontrollably and escape this immune recognition. The team hopes to eventually exploit the high levels of aneuploidy observed in cancer cells as a therapeutic weakness. more...

Budget Balancing Acts

With the future of federal funding for biomedical research under constant scrutiny, many members of the KI community are stepping out of the lab and into the fray. This spring, the Koehler Lab’s Shelby Doyle joined the MIT Science Policy Initiative on an advocacy trip to Washington, D.C. to learn about the legislative process and how to interact with policy makers to better serve the science and engineering community. KI faculty members Tyler Jacks (who testified in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to advocate for federally funded cancer research earlier this year), Robert Langer, Phillip Sharp, and Robert Weinberg — along with Gertler Lab postdoc Madeleine Oudin and former Langer Lab postdocs Omid Veiseh and Jeffrey Karp — spoke with The Boston Globe about NIH's controversial plan to cap the number of grants awarded to larger, more established labs. The plan was ultimately abandoned in favor of new programs like the Next Generation Researchers Initiative, which will provide dedicated funding to early- and mid-career investigators. By speaking out and working together, researchers at all levels have the ability to change the course of cancer — and of cancer research. more...

A Banner Year for the Irvine Lab

If you thought the eight-foot tall lightboxes in the Koch Institute Public Galleries were impressive, you should see the banners in Lobby 7! Part of the MIT Better World campaign and put on display for all to admire on the eve of MIT's 2017 commencement activities, these four flags represent the four pillars of MIT's approach to improving the world — education, passion, research, and innovation. Of particular note is the research banner, which displays the 2015 KI Image Awards winner "Easy Breezy" on its 36'9" face. The image, showing microparticles designed to block metastasis to the lungs, could have been used to illustrate any of the four concepts, but we are honored that a project that combines science and engineering to improve human health has been chosen to exemplify MIT's research arm. more...

Hockfield Hall of Fame

Congratulations to KI member and MIT President Emerita Susan Hockfield for her induction into the U.S. News and World Report STEM Leadership Hall of Fame, which recognizes pioneers that have “strong track records of achievement in advancing STEM education and workforce development, and share firm commitment to developing a blueprint for the future of STEM.” Recent examples of her inspiring leadership can be seen in the Iconic Voices from MIT lecture organized by the Singapore University of Technology and Design, and her "Storied Women of MIT" video profile for Women's History Month. Read more. more...

The Life of a Pioneer

Did you know that KI faculty member Robert Weinberg once built a cabin by hand in the woods of New Hampshire? Or that during the Civil Rights movement, he housed sharecroppers in Alabama who had been evicted from their land for registering to vote? Fascinating facts, that we enjoyed learning about in a recent article by MedPage Today. In the article, Weinberg — who is widely regarded as a cancer research pioneer for his discoveries of the first human oncogene, and the first tumor suppressor gene — talks about successes and setbacks over the course of his career, reflects on his tenure at MIT as a student, member of MIT's Center for Cancer Research (predecessor to the Koch Institute), and founding member of the Whitehead Institute. more...

Honey, I Shrunk the Spheroids

How does continuous low-dose chemotherapy compare against intermittent high-dose treatment when it comes to tumor shrinkage? To explore the relationship between tumor size and the efficacy of continuous low-dose chemotherapy, Cima Lab researchers grew spherical ovarian cancer cell clusters 100 or 200 microns in diameter and exposed them to different doses of cisplatin. The new study, published in Gynecologic Oncology, showed that continuous low-dose cisplatin delivery was just as effective against 100-micron tumor spheroids as a single high dose, similar to established treatment delivered by a catheter. The researchers also found that 200-micron tumor spheroids were treated more effectively with the continuous low dose than with a single dose. These findings support the strategy behind the Cima Lab's development of an origami-like, drug-loaded device that is noninvasively inserted into the abdomen and remains in place for the full treatment course — helping to alleviate serious side effects of the invasive and often intolerable intraperitoneal chemotherapy regimen for ovarian cancer while maximizing cisplatin's effectiveness. This research was supported in part by the Koch Institute and Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Bridge Project and the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund. more...

Farewell to a Friend

The Koch Institute remembers — with admiration, affection, and gratitude — Jennifer C. Johnson, who passed away on May 15, 2017. The wife and partner of late Koch Institute Leadership Council member and MIT alumnus Charles W. Johnson (1955), Jen shared with Chuck a commitment to service, a love of family, friends, and community, and a passion for MIT. A self-described ‘domestic engineer,’ she was also a business owner and active the Racine, WI community where she lived for many years, generously contributing her personal talents and generosity to numerous organizations. more...

Infinite sMiles All Around

Congratulations to the KI members recognized at this year’s MIT Infinite Mile Award ceremony! Mariane Melo, a research scientist in the Irvine Lab, received the award for her hard work and dedication to cultivating a positive sense of community in the lab. And (forgive us for tooting our own horn!) the KI communications team made up of Leny Gocheva, Sara Hellmold, Kelsey Montgomery, and Erika Reinfeld was recognized for strategically furthering the KI’s mission and communicating the impact of KI research to diverse audiences. Read more. more...

The Cool Nano-nerds

The KI dream team of Sangeeta Bhatia, Angela Belcher, and Paula Hammond are (as they describe themselves) "the cool kind of nerds" who are making substantial advances in cancer research on the nanoscale. Comprising half of the all-star faculty at the KI's Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine (of which Bhatia is the director), this power trio combines their expertise in various scientific areas and engineering disciplines to develop a theranostic platform — a combination diagnostic and therapy — made from nanomaterials to detect tumors at their earliest stages and destroy them before they become threatening. In the latest "This Moment in Cancer" segment from WBUR, these three dedicated engineers talk about the potential of nanomedicine in the fight against cancer and how, as researchers and mentors, they work to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. more...

Wnt Power

One distinction between benign and malignant cancers is the quantity of highly proliferative cells whose stem cell-like behavior drives aggressive tumor growth. In a new Nature paper, Jacks Lab researchers describe how the Wnt signaling pathway promotes such qualities in lung tumor cells, resulting in two distinct cellular populations—one that produces the Wnt signal and another that responds to it. By inhibiting the Wnt signal, the team was able to suppress the stem-like behavior of the responder cells, leading to lower propagation rates and increased survival. Their results suggest that targeted disruption of proliferation-inducing pathways early in a tumor's development can translate into effective cancer therapies. This work was supported in part by the Transcend Program, a partnership between the Koch Institute and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. more...

In Tune with Tumors

Between her studies in materials science, her engineering research, her contributions to global health, and her passion for playing piano, Bhatia Lab UROP Tiffany Yeh hasn’t missed a beat during her time at MIT. In a reflective piece for MIT News, Yeh looks back upon her time at MIT and the KI and explains how it has influenced her ultimate goal of becoming a doctor. During her time in the Bhatia Lab, Yeh worked with postdoc Simone Schürle (now a faculty member at ETH Zurich) to develop magnetic microrobots that can deliver drug-loaded nanoparticles into tumors. As for her future medical career, Yeh plans to apply her experience in the lab towards developing medical devices and taking them from patent stage to clinical trials. more...

KI Members and Collaborators Elected to NAS

Congratulations to KI members Sangeeta Bhatia and Stephen Bell on their elections to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) — a prestigious honor that recognizes scientific excellence and outstanding contributions to knowledge. Bhatia and Bell, along with KI collaborator Klavs Jensen, were among six MIT affiliates elected to the NAS in 2017. Following the induction of Bhatia and Bell later this year, a total of 19 KI members will have been awarded membership in the NAS — a private organization of scientists dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. Bhatia will join Robert Langer as the second KI faculty member to hold membership in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Inventors — a proud example of the diverse and boundary-defying talents of our faculty. more...

Shobrys Gives Back

KI friends Don Shobrys '75 and Carol Aronson appear in the cover feature of the new Spring 2017 edition of MIT’s Corridor. In the profile, Shobrys discusses the vast array of opportunities that were available to him as an MIT undergraduate, and how his experiences as both a student and an alumnus have inspired him to give back to his alma mater. One of the ways Shobrys gives back is by contributing to the KI, which he describes as “a microcosm of MIT,” citing thriving interdisciplinary collaborations within our research facility and across the university. He and Aronson also discuss their high regard for MIT's willingness to “attack the world’s most challenging problems," especially cancer. Read more. more...

Of Mice and Men

Researchers in the Jacks and Yilmaz laboratories have developed new strategies for modeling human colorectal cancer in mice. Using a combination of CRISPR gene editing and the transplantation of cultured colon cancer cells into the mouse colon, the team was able to rapidly induce tumors that closely resemble features of human cancer, including metastasis. These new experimental approaches, described in Nature Biotechnology, will be used for in vivo colorectal cancer research using patient-derived material, gene function analysis, as well as translational drug discovery and testing. The work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund, and was featured in the 2016 Image Awards exhibition in the Koch Institute Public Galleries. more...

Looking Sharp!

What do KI member Phillip Sharp, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and actress Kathy Bates have in common? All three were honored at the Research!America's 21st Annual Advocacy awards in March. Sharp, an MIT Institute Professor and Nobel Laureate, received the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Award for Sustained National Leadership for his distinguished work in cancer research at MIT and advocacy efforts as Chairman of Stand Up to Cancer’s Scientific Advisory Committee. The following month, Sharp was again recognized for his groundbreaking work and was chosen to deliver the 127th Annual Shattuck Lecture at the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Annual Meeting. Presentation of the Shattuck Lecture is an honor given to leaders in health and medicine who are based within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In his remarks, Sharp chronicled the evolution of Kendall Square and Cambridge's thriving biotechnology community. more...

Vander Heiden Receives SU2C Sharp Award

Congratulations to KI member Matthew Vander Heiden, the Eisen and Chang Career Development Professor, and University of Wisconsin-Madison Morgridge Institute for Research's Melissa Skala for being awarded the Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Award from Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C). With this grant, the team will work together to discover new ways to tackle pancreatic cancer by studying the altered metabolism of cancer cells. The dynamic duo is one of four teams honored with this award, established in 2014 by the SU2C founders to promote “innovation in collaboration” among members of the SU2C community  It is named in honor of Nobel Laureate Phillip Sharp — a KI member and Chairperson of SU2C’s Scientific Advisory — and is selected by committee. This is the second award Vander Heiden has received from SU2C; in 2016, he received an Innovative Research Grant to support his work in defining the metabolic dependencies of tumors. Read more. more...

KI Outreach in Full Swing

From the American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) Family Science Days to the Cambridge Science Festival (CSF), more than 2,000 visitors have experienced the excitement of cancer research through hands-on activities, demonstrations, e-pen pals, and a pop-up custom-designed mini-golf course. So far this year, approximately three dozen volunteers from more than 20 laboratories pitched in to present KI research at four different outreach events — How Does MIT Fight Cancer? at the AAAS annual meeting; Girls Against Cancer! at the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts' STEM Expo; the NetPals partnership with the Cambridge Public Schools; and Putt-ing Cancer in its Place, a new spin for the KI's seventh annual CSF contribution. We can't speak for everyone, but the reviewers agree — KI outreach is a "hole" lot of fun! more...

Amon Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Congratulations to KI member Angelika Amon, the Kathleen and Curtis Marble Professor in Cancer Research, for being elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for 2017. One the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies — Amon was elected to the Academy for her contributions to Biological Sciences, namely Cellular & Developmental Biology, Microbiology, and Immunology.  more...

Jacks Went Up The Hill

What do you get when you put three leading cancer researchers and a passionate advocate in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform? Support for cancer research on both sides of the aisle. On March 29, KI Director Tyler Jacks joined a panel of cancer research experts to testify in front of the bipartisan committee and argue that federal investment in cancer research is critical for the vitality of the nation’s citizens, economy, and status as the global leader in biomedical research.  more...

Defeating Diagnostic Deficits

A major challenge in fighting cancer is catching it early, when therapies tend to be most effective and patient outcomes most improved. In a recent Nature Biomedical Engineering publication, the Bhatia Lab shows off the capabilities of the new and improved version of their non-invasive urinary diagnostic, which incorporates new design strategies for tumor-specific signal generation and better penetration into tumors. more...

AACR Experiences the 'KI Effect'

That the convergence of engineers and scientists can make a difference in cancer research comes as no surprise to our faithful readers. However, attendees at the recent American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Washington just experienced the KI effect! Find out more about the groundbreaking plenary sessions that were given by KI engineers Angela Belcher and Sangeeta Bhatia, the awards received by KI members, and other exciting happenings at this year’s meeting. more...

Not Your Gene-ric Research Result

The road to personalized cancer treatment is long and winding, and often bends toward therapies that target specific gene mutations present in a patient's tumor. However, new evidence from the Amon Lab suggests that there may be more to this paradigm than meets the eye. The researchers found that aneuploidy (the condition in which cells contain an abnormal number of chromosomes) alone can cause significant variability in genetically identical organisms. Their results, published in Cell, could explain why cancers with identical mutations may respond differently to the same treatment. The team hopes this work will inform the development of new treatment strategies to target specific pathways leading to such variabilities among tumor cells. Read more. more...

Sabatini Receives Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences

KI member David Sabatini has been named the recipient of the fifth annual Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences, which recognizes outstanding achievement by a promising young scientist. Sabatini, whose lab is located at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, was chosen for his discovery of the mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) cellular pathway as a key regulator of growth and metabolism in response to nutrients, and how mTOR regulation impacts normal and diseased physiology. Sabatini’s research focus has the potential to unlock ways to manipulate the mTOR pathway, perhaps one day protecting against age-related diseases such as cancer by tricking the body into mimicking a fasting state even under nutrient-replete conditions. Read more. more...

Biomarker identified for likely aggressive, early stage breast cancer

The laboratory of KI and Whitehead Institute member Piyush Gupta, the Howard S. (1953) and Linda B. Stern Career Development Professor, has identified a factor, SMARCE1, that drives invasion in early-stage breast cancers. It does so by regulating the expression of proteases, enzymes that degrade basement membrane, an extracellular matrix barrier surrounding all epithelial tissues. The team's findings, published in PNAS, suggest that SMARCE1 could serve as a predictor of whether early-stage tumors will ultimately progress and become invasive. Because more than half of low risk 'in situ' breast lesions are benign and will never become aggressive, these results offer a promising strategy to customize treatment plans, and spare those patients whose tumors are less likely to progress. Read more. more...

Programmed for Success

KI researchers Jasdave Chahal and Omar Khan — along with other members of the Anderson and Ploegh Labs — have been developing a more effective way to rapidly generate customized vaccines. Instead of common approaches like using weakened forms of virus, the team uses viral RNA packaged into nanoparticles for delivery to the cells. Once inside the cell, the RNA is translated into proteins that provoke an immune response from the host — with effective results. Last year the team tested therapeutic vaccines for Ebola and influenza; this year they have moved to Zika and, with the help of the Bridge Project, cancer is up next. Read more. more...

From Melanocytes to Microfluidics

The Koch Institute's seventh annual Image Awards exhibition opened in the KI Public Galleries on March 24, after much anticipation and hot on the heels of partner Wellcome Image Awards' 20th anniversary exhibition in London. The KI visuals offer glimpses into ten different MIT laboratories and a wide range of topics, from cell signaling, cancer biology, and regeneration, to drug delivery, tissue engineering, and clinical testing. Opening event photos and presentations are accessible via KI social media channels, including Twitter hashtag #KIimages. The new images are also the focus of the latest Cell Picture Show and a popular feature article on STAT. Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to the scientists, artists, and media specialists who served as judges this year, including Catherine Draycott, outgoing Head of Wellcome Images, who has overseen the image exchange program between the KI and Wellcome Trust these past seven years. more...

Stiff Competition

Members of the Anderson and Langer Labs, in collaboration with researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, have identified a way to block a signaling molecule that causes fibrosis and effectively prevent the buildup of damaging scar tissue around implanted medical devices. When a device is implanted into the body, cells work to isolate the foreign material and build a defensive wall of dense scar tissue around it, eventually inhibiting its function. In this Nature Materials paper, the researchers identified that the signaling molecule CSF1 plays a key role in this process and showed that blocking the CSF1 cell surface receptor using a small molecule inhibitor prevents the fibrosis from occurring. The ability to stop detrimental fibrosis is key to improving the lifespan of implantable devices — whose capabilities in the areas of detection, monitoring, and drug delivery are critical in mounting effective cancer treatments. The team is now working on ways to deliver CSF1 receptor blocking drugs along with the device itself. Read more. more...

Tethered 'til the End

Langer Lab researchers are coating cancer cells with nanoparticles to make the cells more vulnerable to various drug treatments and, ultimately, cell death. When hundreds of nanoparticles are tethered to a cancer cell, they bat and tug at the tumor cell surface as blood flows by, and compress the veil of molecules around it. Published in Nature Medicinethis one-two punch of physical forces followed by drug delivery makes the cell more susceptible to the cell death signal from the drug. You might even say it puts the cell at the "end of its rope" for resisting treatment. This work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine. Read more. more...

Sending Signals to the Moon

How can specific areas of cancer research contribute to — and gain support from — the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Moonshot? Science Signaling's podcast team sat down with KI member Michael Yaffe, the publication’s Chief Scientific Editor, to discuss opportunities associated with the federally funded program. Yaffe — whose research focuses on signaling pathways and networks that control cell cycle progression and DNA damage responses in cancer and cancer therapy — described several ways in which these pathways are critical for cancer initiation and progression, and how improved understanding of signaling pathways can be applied to treatment. These advancements align with the Moonshot’s goal to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer across the nation and the world. Listen now. more...

Speaking Out for STEMinism

For Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, many KI faculty members served as luminaries and advocates for women in STEM. Paula Hammond was highlighted as one of the “Storied Women of MIT" for the Institute’s Women History Month video series. Sangeeta Bhatia, Director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine at the KI, sat down for two Q&A style interviews with our friends at JLABS and Ludwig Cancer Research to discuss medical innovation, entrepreneurship, and the important role of women in STEM. Bhatia also contributed a video to ONE’s #GirlsCount campaign where she encouraged empowerment through nanotechnology, and reiterated MIT's commitment to closing the gender gap in STEM education. more...

Eliezer Calo Joins Faculty

The KI welcomes assistant professor Eliezer Calo to our extramural faculty. Following postdoctoral work at Stanford University, Calo — who first came to MIT through MIT's Summer Research Program (MSRP) and in 2010, received his PhD in the laboratory of KI associate director Jacqueline Lees — will devote his new lab to understanding how cells assemble ribosomes and the roles these important macromolecules play in development and disease. The lab will also explore the ways that defects in ribosome assembly can affect embryonic development and lead to developmental disorders. Calo hopes to inspire and support the next generation of graduate students and MSRP researchers through the same foundational MIT research experiences he received. Calo is one of three new MIT Biology faculty members, including KI intramural faculty member Stefani Spranger. Read more. more...

The KI Welcomes Stefani Spranger

The Koch Institute is proud to welcome Stefani Spranger as our newest intramural facuity member. Her laboratory, located within the KI, will explore how a range of tumor cell-intrinsic, tissue-specific, and environmental factors directly impact the interaction between cancer and the immune system. More specifically, Spranger's research will focus on developing new and effective treatment strategies that activate the immune system to fight cancer. Spranger's deep knowledge in the field of immunotherapy will be a tremendous asset to the KI's immuno-oncology program, and to the MIT Department of Biology, where she will be an assistant professor. Welcome! more...

Welcome to Langermania

KI member Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, has been doing laps around the press circuit, but don't plan on him slowing down anytime soon. Most recently, Langer was featured as "The Edison of Medicine" in Harvard Business Review via an in-depth profile detailing his illustrious accomplishments as an academic and entrepreneur. The article includes business advice from Langer himself — as well as success stories about research by Langer Lab postdocs Oliver "Ollie" Jonas and Mark Tibbitt*. The projects described, respectively supported in part by the Koch Institute's Frontier Research Program and S. Leslie Misrock Frontier Research Fund for Cancer Nanotechnology, highlight the culture of the lab itself and the important role that mentorship plays in transforming ideas into impact. Langer also headlined an article in WIRED showcasing his contributions to smarter drug delivery, namely his work with polymers to create long-lasting pills and drugs. Finally, Langer got personal with the science-based human interest blog Humans of Science as he talked about his career, inspirations, and motivations. (Phew!) *click on "Life in Langer Lab" to expand this web-only feature. more...

What's Your Damage?

Are all chemotherapies created equal? Researchers in the laboratories of KI members Michael Hemann and Stephen Lippard analyzed the mechanisms of action of three common platinum-based chemotherapeutics and discovered that drugs that were thought to act similarly actually kill cells in very different ways. Their results, published in Nature Medicine, suggest that our current arsenal of anti-cancer agents are not generic killers, but rather can be targeted towards specific cancer alterations to achieve optimal results. This work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Michael (1957) and Inara Erdei Fund and Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund, and a Misrock Postdoctoral Fellowship. more...

Susan Hockfield: A Force for Science

Susan Hockfield, MIT President Emerita and KI member, has begun her year-long role as the new President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Hockfield is a strong advocate for convergence and recently co-authored an article on this topic for Science with KI member and MIT Institute Professor Phillip Sharp. While president of MIT, Hockfield was a driving force in transforming the former MIT Center for Cancer Research into the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research—helping the KI become the gold standard for convergence by adding engineers to our faculty. In this article from AAAS, readers get an inside look into Hockfield's history, what inspired her to be the force in science that she is today, and how she plans to use her year-long position to advocate for the use of science and research in addressing the challenges facing the country and world. more...

Challenge Accepted

Grand Challenge Accepted

A team of MIT professors, led by the KI’s Christopher Love, has joined forces with professors from Kansas University and University College London to develop new ways to produce low-cost vaccines for global distribution through their innovative ULTRA platform. Through a Grand Challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the team aims to create the ULTRA manufacturing platform to produce certain vaccines for less than 15 cents a dose. more...

Out of the Tower, Into the Square

Although the Koch Institute rises high above Main Street and is home to many of MIT's great academic minds, we are far from being an ivory tower. On the MIT Alumni Association's "Slice of MIT" blog, Shelby Doyle, a graduate student in the Koehler Lab, describes the opportunities available to aspiring cancer researchers by virtue of the KI's proximity to other local research institutes, as well as top companies and hospitals. In her piece, Shelby reflects on the KI's collaborative, interdisciplinary nature and describes our neighborhood as a bustling market square — full of innovation and promise — that brings her research to the next level. more...

Not Throwing Away Their Shot

Two Anderson Lab postdocs are not throwing away their shot... to transform vaccines. Jasdave Chahal (previously in the Ploegh Lab at the Whitehead Institute) and Omar Khan have been building a rapid vaccine development platform. They aim to tackle some of today's leading global health issues—such as Zika, Ebola, and influenza. With support from the Advanced Medical Research Foundation in collaboration with KI director Tyler Jacks’ laboratory, as well as a Bridge Project grant with Stephanie Dougan at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the duo is also working on prophylactic vaccines for lung and pancreatic cancer, respectively. Chahal and Khan, together with their professors—experienced entrepreneurs Robert Langer, Hidde Ploegh, and Daniel Anderson—are also using the technology as a launchpad for their new company, Tiba Biotech. Learn more about this exciting venture and the team’s innovative spirit in MIT's Spectrum. more...

Out with the Old, In with the New

As we gear up for the public opening of our 2017 Koch Institute Image Awards exhibition on March 24, our 2016 winners will soon be relocating from Main Street to Memory Lane. It's been a vibrant year for our exhibition and some images have gone on to find fame on their own—like "Head in the Game" by the Gertler Lab's Russell McConnell and its recent feature in MIT's Spectrum and "Gut Reaction" by the Yilmaz Lab's Jatin Roper and the Jacks Lab's Tuomas Tammela, which was featured in the NIH Director's blog's "Tales of the Intestinal Crypt" last Halloween. As we say goodbye this month, we're paying tribute to these images via the KI Twitter and Facebook pages by sharing fun facts about the images and behind-the-scenes interviews with their creators. Parting is always such sweet sorrow, but don't let yourself get too nostalgic, because all outgoing KI images and those that came before them can be found on our Public Galleries website. more...

Takeda Care of Business

Takeda Pharmaceuticals has given a generous gift to support groundbreaking research in immuno-oncology at the KI. The gift, aimed to encourage several novel research approaches over the next two years, will allow investigators to advance their understanding of the relationship between the immune system and cancer, and accelerate the development of new immunotherapeutic approaches. Immuno-oncology, prioritized by Takeda as “arguably one of the most impactful recent breakthroughs in cancer research” has been one of the KI’s five core focus areas since its founding. more...

Can't Wait for the Seq-Well

Fans of the Love Lab’s signature nanowell technology will be captivated by a new paper in Nature Methods, and by the associated opportunities to rapidly isolate and sequence RNA from complex patient samples. Working with researchers in MIT’s Department of Chemistry, KI engineers have developed an accessible, portable platform for sequencing RNA from many cells simultaneously, which allows the researchers to identify and analyze different cell types found in individual blood or tissue samples, and look for patterns in their gene expression. With expected applications for multiple diseases, including cancer, the Seq-Well approach is sure to be a blockbuster, coming soon to laboratories near you. In fact, the line is already out the door for the new Nanowell Cytometry platform in the KI’s Flow Cytometry Core Facility, and the research team has already joined forces with clinical investigators at Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center to apply this technology toward discovery of new combination immunotherapies as part of the collaborative Bridge Project. more...

Hammond Elected to the National Academy of Engineering

Congratulations to the Koch Institute's Paula Hammond on her election to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), one of the highest professional distinctions that can be accorded to an engineer. Hammond, a David H. Koch Professor of Engineering and the Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, is one of eight faculty members from MIT named to the 2017 NAE Election Class. A polymer chemist, she was selected for her contributions to self-assembly of polyelectrolytes, colloids, and block copolymers at surfaces and interfaces for energy and health care applications.  more...

Radio Active: KI Cancer Research On the Air

When WBUR launched its new "This Moment in Cancer" series last month, Koch Institute researchers had plenty to say...and share. KI Director and Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel Co-Chair Tyler Jacks kicked off the new series by giving insight into the future of cancer research in Boston and also spoke about the promise of cancer immunotherapy. Extramural faculty member Robert Weinberg provided historical and scientific perspectives on the evolution of the field, along with insight into strategies for cancer prevention. Finally, among many other compelling stories, KI alum Viktor Adalsteinsson presented an update on his blood biopsy work: an early detection initiative that began in the KI's Love Lab and continues as an ongoing collaborative effort, in part through with essential funding from the Bridge Project. more...

A Nanoparticle Walks Into a Barcode

Come here often? Finding the perfect nanoparticle to target a specific tissue in the treatment of cancer and other diseases is no small feat. However, by incorporating DNA “barcodes” (unique sequences of nucleotides) into the nanoparticle, Anderson Lab researchers, along with KI alumni James Dahlman and Eric Wang, are now able to track multiple particles to different organs simultaneously. More efficient than screening each particle individually, their method will allow researchers to quickly determine which structural formations are most able to home in on tissues of interest and thereby choose the best candidates for a long term relationship. This work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund, and is being applied by Anderson Lab researchers to ongoing investigations conducted within the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine here at the KI. more...

Lemon Aid: Gastric Acid Powers Devices

An ingestible device sounds like an appetizing way to monitor or treat disease, but powering such a platform inside the body is no small feat. Inspired by the tabletop “lemon battery,” KI inventors Giovanni Traverso and Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, teamed up with electrical engineers at MIT to design a low-power electronic system that runs on stomach acid. With potential for sensing, drug delivery, and wireless communication, this technology presents a gutsy solution for many clinical applications, including cancer diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment. more...

Tract and Field: Ultrasound Scores Big

RNA-based therapeutics hold great promise for the treatment of many diseases, including cancer. However, delivering nucleic acids directly into cells can be difficult and often entails complex formulations to package the molecules for uptake, especially in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract where they degrade quickly. To overcome this challenge, researchers from the KI’s Langer Lab, including Research Affiliate Giovanni Traverso, and Quinquennial Cancer Research Fellow Carl Schoellhammer, in collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, used low-frequency ultrasound to deliver uncoated RNA to colon cells.  Using this delivery technique, they successfully reduced protein levels of a signaling molecule associated with inflammatory bowel disease, a GI disorder that is linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. more...

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

Seeking to better understand the link between abnormal chromosome number and tumor formation, Amon Lab researcher Jason Sheltzer (now a Fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories) worked with KI colleagues to investigate the tumorigenic potential of cells engineered to contain an extra chromosome. While aneuploidy (when a cell has too many or too few chromosomes) is a common feature of cancer, its role in tumor initiation and progression is unclear. In this study, the researchers found that not-yet-malignant cells with a single added chromosome could, surprisingly, suppress tumor growth and better withstand a variety of oncogenic mutations. Sometimes, however, cells adapted to the aneuploidy  giving rise to fast-growing descendants that acquired additional aneuploidies or returned to the normal diploid state. These results, published in Cancer Cell, suggest that aneuploidy may have both tumor-protective and tumor-promoting effects on the development of cancer. This work was supported in part by the Kathy and the Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund. Read more here and here. more...

Foresight is 30/30

KI researchers Adam Behrens, Jiang He, and Tim Wang were named among Forbes' "30 Under 30" in healthcare for 2017. Adam, a postdoc in the Langer Lab, was chosen for his work on developing vaccines that do not require refrigeration and diagnostic tests that can detect infectious diseases at patients’ bedsides. Jiang, a postdoc in the Bhatia Lab, was selected for his graduate work on developing single-virus tracking, super-resolution imaging. Tim, a graduate assistant in the Sabatini Lab, was recognized for developing drug screening techniques to identify genes that can be targeted to treat cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Now that's what we call clear vision! more...