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

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...