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

Of Mice and Mentorship

From the humble beginnings of the KPC mouse model to cutting-edge developments in gene editing and immunology, the Jacks Lab has always been a place where innovation happens. On September 21, the Lustgarten Foundation honored the lab with a significant investment to advance several key areas of pancreatic cancer research and promote collaboration across MIT. The newly dedicated Lustgarten Laboratory for Pancreatic Cancer Research at MIT will focus on understanding the immunological factors and genetic events that contribute to pancreatic tumors' development, on using organoids and single cell analysis to test new strategies for early detection and treatmet, and on bringing new researchers into the fold.  more...

Function Junction

A recent study from the Yaffe Lab and MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine investigates a subset of more than five hundred human proteins, known as protein kinases, that critically contribute to cancer. Using both computational and experimental methods, the investigators have identified mechanisms by which certain cancer mutations in evolution and cancer may be changing the functions of the kinases, as well as potential avenues for therapeutic intervention.   more...

Speedy Delivery

It's a beautiful day in the Love Lab, where researchers have developed a new way to rapidly manufacture small quantities of biopharmaceuticals on demand. The modular system is small enough to fit on a lab bench, switches easily between producing different drugs, and can make a batch of a drug in a few days. The system will have important applications not just for precision medicine, but also for treating rare diseases, responding to disease outbreaks such as Ebola, and supplying areas that lack large-scale drug manufacturing facilities. In a study published in Nature Biotechnology and featured in Nature Highlights and the NIH Director's Blog, the Love Lab demonstrated their system's capacity to produce clinical-grade therapeutics by producing three different drugs, human growth hormone and cancer medicines interferon alpha 2b and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor.  more...

Startup Roundup

Koch Institute faculty startups are keeping busy. From new investments and partnerships to clinical trials and FDA approvals, KI and MIT research is making its way to patients. Get the scoop from Alnylam, CRISPR Therapeutics, Dragonfly, Glympse Bio, KSQ, Navitor, SQZ Biotech, Suono Bio, Trovagene and Verastem here. Featuring advancements in immuno-oncologgy, precision cancer medicine, cell therapy, pathway inhibition and more, there's a little something for everyone, and good news for patients across the board. more...

Trainees on Track

Congratulations to Bhatia Lab postdoc Quinton Smith, one of 15 researchers nationwide to win a 2018 Hanna Gray Fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for their exceptional potential to be leaders in the life sciences.

A gold star for Langer Lab postdoc Ameya Kirtane, who was named a STAT 2018 Wunderkind for his work on an oral once-weekly drug delivery system. Once the star-shaped capsule is ingested, the points unfold to release doses over the week before the structure distintegrates to pass through the gastrointestinal tract.

In a MIT Technology Review profile, Colin Buss, Bhatia Lab grad student, talks about how he was inspired to trade medicine for medical research, when he realized he could “have a greater breadth of impact developing a new therapeutic technique rather than treating patients directly.”

By contrast, Khalil Ramadi, Cima Lab postdoc, writes about how spending five weeks at Mt. Auburn Hospital transformed his perspective on clinical medicine and how biomedical engineering students and researchers can connect with patients’ needs.

Take a deep dive into science with two of our inaugural Convergence Scholars, Ritu Raman and Kaitlyn Sadtler, on their ICEBERG: Under the Surface of Science blog. And don't forget to check out Sadtler's newly posted TED Talk all about new biomaterials that could make us a little more like Wolverine from X-Men by helping our bodies heal quickly and without scarring. Snikt! more...

League of Xtraordinary Gentlewomen (and Bob)

Congratulations to our 2018 Xconomy Awards winners! Angela Belcher, James Mason Crafts Professor, won the Innovation at the Intersection Award for using the M13 bacteriophage to light up ovarian cancer cells in real time so that surgeons can find them. Nancy Hopkins, former KI member and Professor Emerita, won a Lifetime Achievement Award for her pioneering research on tumor-causing viruses and the genes controlling vertebrate development, as well as her pioneering use of a tape-measure as an elegant tool for fighting gender discrimination in science. The Human Cell Atlas, a project co-chaired by KI member Aviv Regev that aims to map out all human cell types and their interactions, was named Xconomy’s 2018 Big Idea.     The Xconomy winners received their awards as part of Biotech Week Boston, during which KI member and MIT President Emerita Susan Hockfield gave a keynote address on the convergence of biology and engineering in the 21st century, and Robert Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor, gave a talk with his Lyndra co-founder and CEO Amy Schulman on high impact ideas and use-inspired research.     more...

Hungry for Research

Although it has been 100 years since scientists first discovered that cancer cells metabolize nutrients differently than most normal cells, cancer metabolism research has been a relatively neglected field of research—until recently. A new profile from MIT News tells how KI Associate Director and MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine member Matthew Vander Heiden helped bring new life to the field with his appetite for more insight into how cancer cells alter their metabolism. At the beginning of grad school, Vander Heiden thought he would go into medicine, but in studying Bcl-x, an apoptosis regulator found in the membranes of mitochondria, he realized “that we don’t understand cell metabolism anywhere near as well as we thought we did, and someone should really study this.”  more...

Check It Out

The Bhatia Lab is developing a nanosensor library of proteases associated with prostate cancer. In mouse models, their diagnostic tool outperformed the current clinical gold standard, suggesting a possible new approach for early intervention and screening. more...

Hepatocytes with contrasting stains of mitotic spindle and chromosomes

Culture Shock

Let's dish about chromosomes, shall we? Researchers in the Amon Lab have uncovered evidence that cells dividing in culture or in the absence of tissue architecture have significantly higher levels of chromosome mis-segregation (a condition known as aneuploidy) than those that divide within their native environments. Their findings, published in Cell and profiled by HHMI, suggest that the hallmark aneuploidy found in more than 90% of solid human tumors may be influenced by disrupted tissue architecture, independent of gene expression and mutations, and has important implications for the widespread practice of studying cells in a dish. Read more or see this work in the KI Public Galleries.

Lead author and 2014 KI Images Award winner Kristin Knouse just won a 2018 NIH Director's Early Independence Award. Congratulations!     more...

Set and Spike!

A new two-step approach to treating gliomas could help clinicians set the ball by quickly identifying mutations, then drive it home by delivering mutation-targeted treatment, all during the course of tumor removal surgery. In a study published in PNAS, a team of researchers including KI research affiliate Giovanni Traverso and David H. Koch Institute Professor Robert Langer developed both a 30-minute test for IDH1/2 mutations, found in 20 to 25 percent of all gliomas, and microparticles that bypass the blood-brain barrier by implantation directly into the brain. The researchers are now developing tests for other common brain tumor mutations, and expect their approach to be applicable to tumors in other parts of the body.  more...

Eyes and Ears and Mouth And Nose...

KI researchers have an impressive body of work when it comes to human health. MIT Spectrum's recent "head to toe" review of MIT's pioneering biomedical technologies and discoveries features innovative work by KI members Paula Hammond (eyes), Robert Langer (ears), Elazer Edelman (tissue), and Angelika Amon (cells). more...

Institute Professor Robert Langer

Are you "envoying" your summer, Dr. Langer?

KI member Robert Langer, recently interviewed on the Partnering Insights blog and in Forbes, has been named one of five U.S. Science Envoys for 2018. As a Science Envoy for Innovation, Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, will work at both the citizen and government levels to build international relationships and promote collaboration. more...

Oh Say Can You CPCM?

Genomics has long been a staple of precision cancer medicine; however, in recent years, there has been a push to move beyond genome sequencing and explore other pathways to targeted treatment. Author Siddhartha Mukherjee examines the various stars and stripes of this endeavor in The Search for Cancer Treatment Beyond Mutant-Hunting, quoting MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine director Michael Yaffe. Fellow CPCM member Angela Koehler also sheds dawn's early light on CPCM's alternative approaches in a conversation with Chemical & Engineering NewsStereo Chemistry. In it, Koehler and her compatriots discuss how the chemical probes being developed in her laboratory give proof through the night that transcription factors can be used as small molecule drug targets. Learn more about CPCM research here. more...

Top Scholars

Congratulations to KI members Michael Birnbaum and Alex Shalek for being named to the 2018 cohort of Pew-Stewart Scholars! Birnbaum is working to develop new immunotherapies for hard-to-treat cancers, while Shalek is working to uncover unique markers for metastatic disease. more...

Illustration of Angela Belcher

A Little "Light" Cancer Detection

She may not consider herself a "real biologist" but KI and Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine member Angela Belcher, recently nominated for XConomy's Innovation at the Intersection Award, is making real progress in the fight against ovarian cancer. NEO.LIFE explores how she is engineering viruses to bind to tumor cells and carbon nanotubes, with the goal of improving tumor-removal surgerycancer patient prognosis.  more...

In Xcellent Company

The Koch Institute congratulates the KI faculty members whose startup companies (and associated CEOs) are being celebrated by this year's Xconomy Award nominations. Each category honors a person, company, or organization within the Boston life sciences ecosystem, including:     Young Innovator: Former KI postdoc Carl Schoellhammer (CEO and co-founder, along with KI member Robert Langer, of Suono Bio)         Newcomer: Bill Haney (CEO and co-founder, along with KI director Tyler Jacks, of Dragonfly Therapeutics)         CEO: John Maraganore (CEO of Alnylam, co-founded by KI member Phil Sharp)         X of the Year: KI member and Senti Biosciences co-founder Timothy Lu (nominated as Scientific Founder of the Year)         Big Idea: Travera (co-founded by KI member Scott Manalis, and profiled here) and the Human Cell Atlas (co-led by KI member Aviv Regev and profiled here).         See all the nominations (including KI members Angela Belcher and Nancy Hopkins mentioned above!) here.     more...

Karches Mentorship Prize Now Open for Nominations

Mentors play an incredibly important role at the KI, which is excited to announce a new prize celebrating mentorship. The Peter Karches Mentorship Prize will be awarded annually to up to four trainees (either post-docs or graduate students) serving as mentors to high school and undergraduate students working in KI laboratories.

Candidates must be nominated in writing by their mentees or PIs. Nominations for trainees who mentored high school and undergraduate students working in KI laboratories during the 2017-18 academic year and/or summer 2018 must be submitted to ki-fellowships@mit.edu by 6:00 p.m. on Friday, September 7, 2018. See prize details and nomination form here.

In addition to recognizing the contributions of trainee mentors at the KI, this new prize celebrates Peter Karches’s extraordinary legacy. Mr. Karches spent his career at Morgan Stanley, rising to become president and chief operating officer of Morgan Stanley’s institutional securities and investment banking group. A passionate horse racing fan, he bred and raced thoroughbreds, and co-chaired the New York Racing Association. After a long battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Mr. Karches passed away in April 2006. In honor of Mr. Karches’s generosity, intellect, and steadfast commitment to family and friends, James Goodwin, a close friend of the Karches family, has established the Peter Karches Mentorship Prize at the KI. more...

Research for the Ages (Of Cells)

Most cell types can only undergo a limited number of cell divisions, a process also referred to as cellular aging. What causes old cells to stop dividing has been unclear. In work published by Genes & Development, researchers in the Amon Laboratory identified aging factors that accumulate in old budding yeast mother cells and described how they interfere with cell division. Spontaneous transmission of these aging factors to daughter cells results in rejuvenation of the mother cell but causes death of their daughter. Because the cell division errors that occur in old yeast and human cells are remarkably similar, this research could help illuminate the molecular processes that cause aging of human cells. more...

Summer Backpacking with the Irvine Lab

The Irvine Lab has summer backpacking down to a T (cell). New work, published in Nature Biotechnology, describes how this Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine team is using nanoparticle "backpacks" to improve efficacy and lower toxicity of adoptive T cell therapy against solid tumors. Their latest particles can carry 100-fold more drug than their predecessors and will release their cargo only when the immune cells carrying them reach the tumor and become activated. Senior author and principal investigator Darrell Irvine is a co-founder of startup company Torque, which is preparing to blaze a trail into the clinic later this year. more...

We Built This Laboratory on 'Doc and Roll

What's it like to begin your career in a brand new laboratory? Nature spoke with KI postdoctoral scholar Timothy Fessenden and his advisor, KI faculty member and cancer immunology rockstar Stefani Spranger, about building a lab from the ground up. The process, they say, is not immune to challenges but both PI and postdoc are ready to roll out new research and keep learning from each other along the way. Read more. more...

Slow Down, You Grow Too Fast

Researchers in the laboratory of KI associate director and MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine member Matthew Vander Heiden are looking at aspartate as a limiting nutrient for cancer cells and feeling groovy. Their latest paper, published in Nature Cell Biology and further covered in Nature News & Views, explains how and why this amino acid is important for cell proliferation and argues that targeting aspartate production may reduce the growth of some tumors. Read more. more...

Deep Thoughts on Drug Delivery

Chronically implanted microprobes developed in the KI's Cima and Langer Labs, in collaboration with the Graybiel Lab, show great promise for targeted drug delivery in the brain. more...

The Unstoppable Nancy Hopkins

KI member and MIT Professor Emerita Nancy Hopkins may be officially retired, but she is not slowing down. After co-authoing a review of the molecular mechanisms of the preventable causes of cancer in the United States for Genes & Development, she sat down with MIT News to share her perspective on the impact and potential of cancer prevention. On September 5, Hopkins will be honored with the 2018 Xconomy Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to genetics, cancer research, and gender equity in science. more...

Weight For It

The KI's Vander Heiden Lab, in collaboration with researchers and clinicians at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, is exploring the connections between pancreatic cancer and weight loss. As seen in Nature, the team looked at tissue wasting mechanisms in mice with early stage tumors and found that loss of pancreatic digestive enzymes can contribute to early weight loss in pancreatic cancer. They also examined blood samples and clinical data from more than 700 pancreatic cancer patients, determining that tissue loss does not necessarily correlate with lower survival rates and suggesting that detecting such tissue loss could lead to earlier diagnosis. The work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund and the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine. Get the breakdown from MIT News, Nature News & Views, and STAT. more...

Langer Named US Science Envoy

KI member Robert Langer has been named one of five U.S. Science Envoys for 2018. As a Science Envoy for Innovation, Langer, will work at both the citizen and government levels to build international relationships and promote collaboration. more...

A Little "Light" Cancer Detection

She may not consider herself a "real biologist" but KI member Angela Belcher is making real progress in the fight against ovarian cancer. NEO.LIFE explores how she is engineering viruses to bind to tumor cells and carbon nanotubes with the goal of improving surgical patients' prognosis. more...

Top Scholars

Congratulations to KI members Michael Birnbaum and Alex Shalek for being named to the 2018 cohort of Pew-Stewart Scholars! Michael is working to develop new immunotherapies for hard-to-treat cancers. Alex is working to uncover unique markers for metastatic disease.   more...

Pushing BBBoundaries, Crossing BBBarriers

Blood brain barrier getting in the way of brain cancer treatment? Na-no problem! A collaborative effort between the laboratories of Paula Hammond, a David H. Koch Professor in Engineering and head of MIT's Department of Chemical Engineering, Michael Yaffe, the David H. Koch Professor of Science and director of MIT's Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, and former Charles W. and Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator Scott Floyd has yielded a layered nanoparticle coated with a protein known as transferrin that can pass through the blood brain barrier to deliver a targeted one-two punch to glioblastoma tumor cells. Mice treated with these transferrin-coated nanoparticles survived for twice as long as mice that received other treatments. The work is described in Nature Communications and was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program, a KI Quinquennial Cancer Research Fellowship, and the Bridge Project. more...

The Boom Where It Happens

What is progress and how does it come to be? Journalist Karen Weintraub went behind the scenes of Kendall Square's "Bio Boom" on WBUR's Common Health, speaking with KI members Susan Hockfield and Eric Lander, and Frequency Therapeutics CEO David Lucchino, about what makes our local neighborhood, the Heart of Biotech, so special, and what the sector can do to sustain this dynamic trajectory of growth. In a separate feature, she spoke with KI member Robert Langer and others about the ups and downs of life in the biotech startups fastlane.     Boston Globe correspondent Scott Kirsner examined the past, present, and future to unravel the secret to Boston's innovation economy. KI member and biotech guru Phillip Sharp, also heard on WBUR discussing how Kendall Square became the epicenter of the biotech world, was among those interviewed.     more...

Get a Life (Science, That Is!)

Curious about the scientific endeavor? Looking for some pre-summer reading or listening? Sit down with brand new Whitehead Institute Fellow Kristin Knouse, a recent alumna of the Amon Lab (and 2014 Image Awards winner), as she talks fundamental biology with Tabula Synthase and shares lessons learned from her MD/PhD journey. Or, join KI graduate student Lauren Stopfer on the GLiMPSE podcast (fun fact: Spranger Lab postdoc Tim Fessenden is one of the new co-hosts!) to share insights about her work in the White Lab, graduate admissions at MIT, and what it means to "look like a scientist." Finally, get to know immunologist Kaitlyn Sadtler, a current Image Awards winner, Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine Convergence Scholar, TED Fellow, and postdoc in the Anderson/Langer lab through her interview with The Female Scientist, offering reflections and advice for aspiring scientists and engineers. From success to failure, confidence to doubt, and everything in between, their stories are sure to inspire, educate, and engage. And, for more "I knew them when" stories, check out this video from Dickinson College, featuring new Jacks Lab technician Grace Crossland. more...

Ligands, Microarrays, Action!

Rising pharmaceutical star Kronos Bio has signed a major deal with biotech celebrity Norbert Bischofberger, booking him as the inaugural CEO for their big screen debut. And when we say "big screen," we mean it. Building on the high-throughput screening techniques developed in the laboratory of founding scientist and KI member Angela Koehler, the company aims to discover and develop novel therapies to target the most intractable and challenging cancer targets—the so-called "undruggable" transcription factors. With their stellar crew and private lot in Lab Central, Kronos Bio is well poised to be a therapeutic blockbuster. more...

Intestinal Stem Cells: The Next Regeneration

How does fasting affect recovery from GI illness? A new study from the laboratories of KI members Ömer Yilmaz and David Sabatini reveals that fasting can change intestinal stem cells' metabolism and improve their ability to regenerate after infection or other gastrointestinal distresss. These results, obtained in mice and published in Cell Stem Cell, suggest potential interventions for at-risk individuals such as older people recovering from GI infections or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. The research was supported in part by the MIT Stem Cell Initiative through Fondation MIT and the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund. more...

KI Trainees are the Bee's Knees

Several Koch Institute trainees received accolades this spring, reflecting their accomplishments in academia, research, and STEM advocacy. Meenakshi Chakraborty, a UROP in the KI's Sharp and Garg laboratories, was named as one of two MIT recipients of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship Award for 2018-2019, along with UROP Anna Sappington, who works alongside KI member Aviv Regev. Two KI trainees — Jay Mahat from the Sharp Lab and Nicholas Struntz from the Koehler Lab — were also selected to be a part of the inaugural class of MIT-GSK Gertrude B. Elion Research Fellows. Last, but certainly not least, Ritu Raman of the Cima and Langer labs received the Curious Scientist award from Cambridge Science Festival for her work as a researcher and staunch supporter of women and girls in STEM fields. Congratulations to all! more...

Spreading Weinberg Wisdom

From shared insights to exciting new research — KI member and director of the Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology at MIT, Robert Weinberg, has had his cancer research expertise on full display this spring. Take, for example, this characteristically frank comment on new claims linking coffee and cancer, or this overview of cancer and its prominence in modern life for The Guardian. Perhaps the most buzzworthy highlight from Weinberg this season, however, is new research on potential outcomes of breast cancer surgery. In April, he and his team published findings in Science Translational Medicine suggesting that surgery for breast cancer patients may trigger a systemic immune response that allows for early metastatic relapse during the healing process. However, the study also includes some good news, showing that taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) after breast cancer surgery may prevent such a relapse. This new understanding about the connections between post-surgical wound healing, inflammation, and metastasis could bring change to the standard of care for breast cancer patients. The work, also featured by STAT and WBUR, was supported in part by a TRANSCEND grant through the KI's alliance with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Read more. more...

You Oughta Be in Picture Shows

The Koch Institute Image Awards and Cell Picture Show are celebrating five years of collaboration! Ever since 2013, these two champions of biomedical research have come together to celebrate the role of imagery in uncovering and communicating scientific discoveries and technological progress. Take a stroll down memory lane and see the 2018 winning images in this month's slide show. more...

Intestine the Limits of MK2

Colon inflammation, as in ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, measurably increases colon cancer risk, but how has remained unclear. A recent paper in PNAS from the laboratory of KI member Michael Yaffe, director of the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, offers new insight from studies of the MK2 signaling pathway. MK2 is a protein kinase well studied by the Yaffe group for its role in chemotherapeutic resistance, but also as a key regulator of cell stress and inflammation. Using mouse models of whole body and tissue-specific MK2 deletion, as well as studies of human cancer cell lines, the Yaffe team showed that the MK2 pathway promotes colon tumor development by regulating immune cells called macrophages. MK2 drives the macrophages into a tumor-promoting state that modulates the surrounding microenvironment and enhances development of tumor-supporting blood vessels. These findings support targeted blockade of MK2 as a potential preventative strategy for high-risk patients. This work was supported in part by the Charles and Marjorie Holloway Foundation. Read more. more...

Powerhouse Spring Cleaning

Color us compressed — the Amon Laboratory has uncovered the mechanism behind an important molecular pathway, called mitoCPR, that helps mitochondria (the "powerhouse of the cell") function, and retain cell health, under adverse conditions. Their results, published in Science earlier this month, describe how cells can remove unwanted molecules from the surface of mitochondria when protein import into mitochondria fails. Read more. more...

More Than Your Average Cup of Joe

Here's some stimulating news — Giovanni Traverso, KI faculty member Robert Langer, and members of their research group have found that caffeine can take a different form than your morning cup of coffee. A new study in Biomaterials shows that caffeine can catalyze the formation of polymer materials and create gummy, biocompatible gels that could be used for drug delivery and other medical applications. Caffeine acts as a safer alternative to common and sometimes hazardous metal catalysts, and the gel-like texture makes it easy to chew or swallow, which could lead to better patient compliance for those who have difficulty swallowing pills. Read more. more...

Bridge Projects in Bloom

Weather aside, a sure sign of spring at the Koch Institute is the announcement of the latest cohort of research teams supported by the Bridge Project, the Koch Institute’s collaborative partnership with Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. This year, nine new projects seek improved understandings and test novel approaches, from exploring a new target for brain cancer treatment, to understanding how obesity may help colon cancer evade the immune system, to developing personalized therapeutic vaccines for metastatic cancers. Also included is a foray into a new disease area, ileal carcinoids. This neuroendocrine cancer is hard to treat and to study, partly due to a lack of reliable models. Combining advances in modeling, drug delivery, and highly sensitive analysis, the team aims to better understand and predict the tumors’ therapeutic response. See the 2018 Bridge Projectsmore...

Roots of Success

KI member and MIT Institute Professor Phillip Sharp will be honored at this year's American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting with the 2018 AACR Distinguished Award for Extraordinary Scientific Innovation and Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Research and Biomedical Science, the latest in a long line of commendations. However, cancer research is not the only "field" that shaped Sharp's career. In March, Sharp returned to his Bluegrass State roots to speak at a "Kentucky to the World" event where he stopped by Louisville's NPR Station, WFPL, to discuss his journey from growing up on a farm in rural Kentucky to his 1993 Nobel Prize win and beyond. more...

Science Festival Double Header

Pardon the mixing of sports metaphors, but the KI is going for gold in the Cambridge Science Festival this April. First up, the triumphant return of Putt-ing Cancer in its Place — the pop-up cancer research-themed mini-golf course — on Thursday, April 19 from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. in MIT North Court. (rain date Friday, April 20). Mark your calendars to swing by (it's free!) and be sure to share the event on Facebook be-fore-hand. Then, on Friday, April 20, stop by the KI Public Galleries for Cell Lines to Street Signs, a "Behind the Images" event celebrating the Festival's new look thanks to the inclusion of KI Image Award winners and runners-up! The program will include light refreshments and relay-style lightning talks about the featured images. more...

From Origami to Organoids: 2018 Image Awards Exhibition Opens

From tissues to tumors, dendrites to diabetes, vacuoles to vaccines, 10 dynamic images from eleven MIT laboratories were unveiled on March 8, marking the opening of the eighth annual Image Awards exhibition in the Koch Institute Public Galleries. This year's winning visuals, also featured in STAT and Nature, encompass a wide range of imaging techniques and subject matters, shining light on the processes and progress of today's biomedical research endeavors. Learn more. more...

A Day in the Langer Life

Juggling his roles as engineer, professor, entrepreneur, and inventor — KI member and David H. Koch Institute Professor Robert Langer is always on the go. In this day-in-the-life video, produced by MIT's School of Engineering and MIT's Department of Chemical Engineering, Langer takes viewers behind the curtain to learn more about how his interest in chemisty and fascination with magic propels him to keeping learning and discovering through chemical engineering. more...

Hammond Wins ACS Award in Applied Polymer Science

In March, Paula Hammond, KI member and David H. Koch Professor of Engineering, received the American Chemical Society (ACS) Award in Applied Polymer Science at the ACS National Meeting in New Orleans. Hammond, also the head of MIT's Department of Chemical Engineering, was honored for her contributions to the fields of polymer and polymer materials research. Also recognized at the ACS National Meeting was KI member Angela Belcher, who gave the Fred Kavli Innovations in Chemistry Lecture at the event. more...

Langer Lab Alumna Named Gates Cambridge Scholar

From Cambridge Mass to Cambridge UK — former Langer Lab UROP June Park has been selected as a 2018 Gates Cambridge Scholar and will be heading across the pond to earn a PhD in bioengineering at Cambridge University. During her time in the Langer Lab, Park helped develop ultrasound-mediated colonic drug-delivery device, which became the platform technology for KI startup Suono Bio. She is currently an associate consultant at Putnam Associates, where she helps generate and deliver strategic recommendations for global biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. We're sure that she'll be applying her keen sense of both business and engineering as she takes on this next opportunity. Congratulations! Read more. more...

Yilmaz Wins AAAS Award

Congratulations to KI member and Assistant Professor of Biology Ömer Yilmaz for being named a winner of the 2018 AAAS Martin and Rose Wachtel Cancer Research Award! The award honors early-career investigators who have performed outstanding work in the field of cancer research. Yilmaz was selected along with Neville Sanjana, a Core Faculty Member at the New York Genome Center and Assistant Professor at New York University. Both awardees will deliver a public lecture on their research and have their award-winning essays published in Science Translational Medicine. Read more. more...

Advancing New Bodies of Knowledge

Researchers from the laboratory of KI member Linda Griffith have engineered a new "body on a chip" technology that could be used to accurately test the efficacy of drugs before they're administered to humans. The technology, a microfluidic platform that connects engineered tissues from organs, can replicate human organ interactions for an extended period of time, allowing researchers to learn how various parts of the body react to the drug being tested. An image of previous work from this project was showcased in the 2017 Koch Institute Image Awards Exhibition. Read more. more...

Winter Blues No Match for Reviews

Late-winter weather got you down? Curl up fireside with one of two new KI research reviews. In Nature Reviews Cancer, Stefani Spranger, the Howard S. (1953) and Linda B. Stern Career Development Professor, helps uncover the mystery behind which tumors respond to cancer immunotherapies called checkpoint blockades, and how activation of certain signaling pathways in tumor cells can impair local antitumor immune responses. Mystery not your genre? ACS Nano recently featured a page-turner by members of the Langer lab and their collaborators describing recent advances in drug delivery, materials science, and nanotechnology to develop next-generation nanoparticle platforms to overcome barriers for delivery of TRAIL. TRAIL is an immune molecule that has received significant attention as a cancer therapeutic because it can selectively trigger cancer cell apoptosis — or cell suicide — without causing toxicity, but creating viable delivery systems is no linear plot. The team has received support from the S. Leslie Misrock (1949) Fund for Cancer Nanotechnology, the Bridge Project, and the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine. more...

Adjuvantageous Approach Boosts Ovarian Cancer Survival

A new adjuvant (or auxiliary) therapy developed in the Hammond and Yaffe laboratories shows great promise for improving outcomes against ovarian cancer. The team's RNA-peptide nanoplexes, described in Bioengineering & Translational Medicine, profoundly sensitized mice with aggressive ovarian tumors to standard chemotherapy, extending median survival by 37% over chemotherapy alone and decreasing metastatic spread to the lungs, all without observable side effects. The nanoplexes — tiny conjugates of gene-silencing siRNA and protective peptides — block the MK2 cell signaling pathway, which several cancers use to resist the effects of chemotherapy. Studies of this approach are underway in additional tumor types and more advanced models. This work, featured in the 2017 KI Image Awards exhibition, is a classic example of the KI’s convergence-driven cancer research: the Yaffe Lab previously showed that shutting down MK2 makes tumors more responsive to chemotherapy, and absent a suitable small molecule inhibitor of MK2, they turned to siRNA and enlisted help from the Hammond Lab to protect and deliver it. The research was supported in part by the Charles and Marjorie Holloway Foundation, by the S. Leslie Misrock (1949) Frontier Research Fund for Cancer Nanotechnology, and by a Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Teal Innovator Award to Hammond. more...

Fresh Faces of Biology at MIT

Course 7, biology, is a staple of the MIT undergraduate experience and the academic home to many Koch Institute researchers. The biology department's newly updated website offers fresh perspectives from students and researchers shaping the future of cancer research and human health. Take, for example, Alissandra Hillis, an undergraduate in the Vander Heiden Lab whose current investigations of cancer metabolism are rooted in childhood curiosity and her own family's encounters with the disease. Hillis's time at MIT has led her down the paths of both translational and policy-based work. Similarly, undergraduate Courtney Diamond, former Irvine Lab researcher and advisee of KI member Robert Horvitz, is combining both personal and professional interests to shape her anticipated career in public health. On the flip side, graduate student Faye-Marie Vassel has shifted her focus away from science policy to a more hands-on study of cancer biology, thanks in part to her early forays into science outreach and her current studies of chemotherapy resistance in the KI's Hemann and Walker laboratories. Likewise, undergraduate Elizabeth Li has been inspired from her time in three different cancer-related labs—including the Yilmaz and Lees labs—to one day start her own. Finally, graduate student Zhaoqi Li describes how multidisciplinary and multicultural experiences led him to the Vander Heiden Lab to study how cancer cells fuel their growth. We are sure that all five of these researchers, along with others featured in graduate, undergraduate, and postdoctoral testimonials, will continue to push boundaries and uncover fundamental truths, as a matter of course. more...

Cima Appointed to School of Engineering Leadership

Michael Cima, KI member and David H. Koch Professor of Engineering, has been named the new co-director of MIT's Innovation Initiative and associate dean of innovation for the School of Engineering. A successful entrepreneur and acclaimed materials sciences researcher, Cima has served in various leadership positions throughout his tenure at MIT, including an ongoing appointment as faculty director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. This triad of industry, research, and administrative leadership experience make Cima a natural choice for these new positions. Congratulations and may the force of innovation be with him! Read more. more...

Making What's Old New Again

KI Associate Director and Associate Professor of Biology, Matthew Vander Heiden, is bringing metabolism back to the forefront of cancer research. In a new profile, MIT Technology Review details Vander Heiden's path to a career focus on the once-neglected research area of cell metabolism and his role in its revival as one of today's most promising avenues for treating cancer and other diseases. Read more. more...

Hockfield Talks Convergence at AAAS

At this year's American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting, convergence was the hot topic as discussion focused on accelerating science and technology to meet the needs of 9.5 billion people by 2050. Prior to the meeting, MIT President Emerita and KI member, Susan Hockfield, wrote an editorial for Science titled "Our science, our society" that stressed the importance of investing in science to advance technology. She also delivered her final address as AAAS President on how 21st century innovation will be driven by the convergence of scientific disciplines. Plenary speakers included 2017 KI summer symposium panelist Cori Bargmann and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Watch their talks and Hockfield's address here. more...

Belcher Elected to National Academy of Engineering

Hearty congratulations are in order for Koch Institute member Angela Belcher for being elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE)! Belcher, the James Mason Crafts Professor and Professor of Biological Engineering and Materials Science, was honored for her work in developing novel genetic evolution methods for the generation of new materials and devices. She is one of four newly elected members from MIT to be included in the 2018 class. Belcher's selection brings the total number of current KI faculty members elected to the NAE to nine. Read more or check out this in-depth profile of her work in Chemical & Engineering News. more...

Lights! Cameras! Convergent Action!

On World Cancer Day this year, we were excited to contribute to the global conversation on cancer with a new video highlighting how the Koch Institute uses convergence to bring new cancer solutions to more patients, faster. In this video, various KI investigators—including MIT President Emerita Susan Hockfield, KI Director Tyler Jacks, and professors Paula Hammond, Michael Yaffe, Sangeeta Bhatia, and Scott Manalis—tell the story of how convergence accelerates cancer research progress. more...

Putting Pen to Purpose

Two KI trainees are drawing on their own experiences as researchers in academia to offer mentorship and guidance to those pursuing similar career paths. Ritu Raman, a postdoctoral fellow in the Cima and Langer Labs, writes for the Society of Women Engineers: Women in Academia blog about her first year as a postdocoral researcher at MIT and gives tips for the graduate student to postdoc transition. Lauren Stopfer, a PhD candidate in the White Lab, was inspired to contribute to the MIT Graduate Student Admissions blog after attending a writing workshop during MIT's Independent Activities Period. Stopfer, who now serves on the blog's editoral board, uses the platform to give prospective students an authentic glimpse into the life of a MIT graduate student.  more...

 Fellow faculty members Michael Yaffe, Michael Hemann, Angela Koehler, Matthew Vander Heiden, and Forest White join the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine

Targeting Patient Success with Precision Cancer Medicine

We are excited to kick off the new year by announcing the launch of the new MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, housed within the KI and established by a major gift from an anonymous donor. With Director Michael Yaffe at the helm, the Center will advance progress within the field of precision medicine — one of the KI's five research focus areas. Fellow faculty members Michael Hemann, Angela Koehler, Matthew Vander Heiden, and Forest White join this endeavor. Driven by internal and external collaborations, particularly with clinical partners, the Center will focus on identifying the most effective drugs and combinations for individual patients. Read more. more...

The Koch Institute is thrilled to announce four new extramural faculty members: Regina Barzilay, Ed Boyden, Jeremiah Johnson, and Alex Shalek.

New Year Brings New KI Members

The Koch Institute is thrilled to announce four new extramural faculty members: Regina Barzilay, Ed Boyden, Jeremiah Johnson, and Alex Shalek. Barzilay, the Delta Electronics Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, will bring to the KI her unique expertise in using data and machine learning to advance cancer detection and treatment. She is the recent recipient of a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship, which is known by many as the “genius award.” Boyden is Associate Professor of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT's McGovern Institute and Media Lab, where he leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group. His work focuses on developing tools for analyzing and repairing complex biological systems such as the brain, and applying those tools systematically to reveal fundamental principles of biological function. Boyden was recently named the recipient of NIH's Transformative Research Award. Johnson, Associate Professor of Chemistry at MIT, works to develop new macromolecule tools to address problems in chemistry, medicine, biology, energy, and polymer physics. He was recently named the winner of the MIT School of Science Teaching Prize for Undergraduate Education. Lastly, Shalek, who was recently named the Pfizer Inc.-Gerald Laubach Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry, leverages advances in nanotechnology and chemical biology to develop broadly applicable platforms for manipulating and profiling many interacting single cells in order to examine ensemble cellular behaviors from the bottom up. Fun fact: Alex was also a Koch Institute Image Awards winner back in 2013. Welcome, all! more...

Garg named Johnson Clinical Investigator

This month, Salil Garg begins his appointment as the Koch Institute’s new Charles W. (1955) and Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator. Garg’s research is focused on understanding the role of microRNAs and other potential drivers of ‘mutationally bland’ cancers. Since these tumors have few genetic mutations, which makes them unsuitable for genetically-targeted cancer therapies, Garg and his research group are studying other possible avenues for intervention. He is also working with the Anderson and Sharp laboratories to develop a technology for single cell microRNA sequencing as a diagnostic for early cancer detection. Garg, a former Sharp Lab postdoc, is board certified in clinical pathology and completed a fellowship in molecular genetic pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he currently practices. Learn more. more...

When it comes to drug delivery to the brain, ultrathin is in.

Cannula Believe It?

When it comes to drug delivery to the brain, ultrathin is in. As published in Science Translational Medicine, a team comprised of KI members Michael Cima and Robert Langer, KI alum and Assistant Professor at MIT's Media Lab Canan Dagdeviren, and the McGovern Institute's Ann Graybiel, have developed a device to deliver drugs to very specific areas of the brain — even its deepest regions. At the heart of the system is an ultrathin needle, a miniaturized cannula about the width of a single strand of hair, containing several tubes that release multiple drugs at controlled and precise doses and locations. This strategy supports another of the researchers' goals — to bypass the blood-brain barrier and avoid harmful side effects that can be caused by drugs meant for the central nervous system getting into the brain. This innovative delivery system has high potential for studying and treating neurological disorders, and possibly brain cancer as well. Read more in MIT NewsThe Washington Post, and The Boston Herald. more...

Ingenuity unfolds when ancient art meets modern engineering—just ask KI graduate student Katerina Mantzavinou, who aims to make ovarian cancer treatment less invasive, less toxic, and more effective.

Arts and Crafting Cancer Solutions

Ingenuity unfolds when ancient art meets modern engineering—just ask KI graduate student Katerina Mantzavinou, who aims to make ovarian cancer treatment less invasive, less toxic, and more effective. Working in the Cima Lab, she is developing an origami-like device that will be directly inserted into the abdomen to administer local intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy. The device, prototyped with support from the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program, releases a continuous low-dose of IP chemotherapy—an approach that the team previously showed, with support from the Bridge Project, to be as effective as the current IP regimen of periodic high-dose chemotherapy, while causing less toxicity. Learn about the origami-inspired creation of the implantable device from Mantzavinou and Cima and see their innovative idea come to life in this video feature from STAT. This project, also featured on Yahoo!, will make another appearance in the upcoming Image Awards exhibition, opening March 9 in the Koch Institute Public Galleries. more...

A collaborative Bridge Project team, led by MIT biologist Amy Keating and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute physician-scientists Loren Walensky and Anthony Letai, describe a novel strategy for inhibiting Mcl-1, a protein that is often overexpressed in cancer and contributes to tumor cell survival and resistance to chemotherapy.

Fit to be Peptide

A collaborative Bridge Project team, led by MIT biologist Amy Keating and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute physician-scientists Loren Walensky and Anthony Letai, describe a novel strategy for inhibiting Mcl-1, a protein that is often overexpressed in cancer and contributes to tumor cell survival and resistance to chemotherapy. The team modified small protein fragments, or peptides, using chemical approaches and sequence optimization techniques, to produce peptides that are stable and can enter cells. When administered to cancer cells that are dependent on Mcl-1 for survival, the peptides successfully induced cell death. This research, published in PNAS, could lead to the development of new drugs for many different cancer types, and thus holds significant promise for clinical translation.  more...