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

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, dnamely 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...

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...