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

In the News

tumor section

Location, Location, Location

Matthew Vander Heiden and Bridge Project collaborators demonstrate in a Nature Cancer paper that metabolic differences between primary and metastatic brain tumors may serve as therapeutic targets. The research team showed that breast cancer metastases in the brain require fatty acid synthase expression because they must make their own fats, as compared to breast cancer tumors in the breast, where fats are abundant and accessible. Therapies that inhibit fatty acid synthase in these brain metastases may be a promising strategy for combatting these fatal and drug resistant tumors. This work was also supported in part by the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, and the Ludwig Center at MIT.   more...

a trisomy 8 Ewing sarcoma cell

In-eight Ability

Paradoxically, variation in the number of chromosomes each cell carries impedes the ability of normal cells to grow and proliferate—but not for cancer cells. By combining bench experiments with bioinformatic algorithms developed in the Barbara K. Ostrom 1978 Bioinformatics and Computing facility, Amon Lab researchers demonstrate how an extra copy of chromosome 8 in Ewing’s sarcoma helps rather than hinders cell survival and growth. In the study published in Genes and Development, researchers found that the EWS-FLI1 fusion oncogene, which drives 85% of Ewing’s sarcomas, results in replication stress and increased DNA damage. An extra copy of chromosome 8 alleviated the cellular stress caused by the oncogene by adding additional copies of RAD21, a gene implicated in DNA damage repair. The team’s findings offer new insight into the mechanisms behind tumorigenesis. more...

Nancy Hopkins and Aviv Regev

Hail Fellows, Well Met

Nancy Hopkins and Aviv Regev were elected to the 2021 class of American Association for Cancer Research Fellows. Hopkins was honored for helping to establish zebrafish as an essential disease model—which has also earned her the International Zebrafish Conference's 2021 George Streisinger Award—as well as her research involving murine RNA tumor viruses. Regev was honored for her work developing computational approaches to understanding molecular circuits and developing technologies for high throughput, single-cell screening. more...

Matthew Vander Heiden

Koch Institute Names New Director

Matthew Vander Heiden has been named the next director of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, effective April 1. An MIT professor of biology, a practicing oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and a pioneer in the field of cancer cell metabolism, Vander Heiden was one of the first faculty members hired to join the Koch Institute after it was created. He has served as associate director since 2017, and is a member of the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, the Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology, and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. His work has been recognized by many awards, including the HHMI Faculty Scholar Award and an NCI Outstanding Investigator Award. Now, as he guides the Koch Institute into its second decade, he looks forward to taking advantage of new opportunities to make fundamental discoveries in the biology of cancer, as well as translating existing knowledge into better treatments for patients. Vander Heiden succeeds Tyler Jacks, who has served as director for more than 19 years, first for the MIT Center for Cancer Research and then for its successor, the Koch Institute. more...

molecular simulation of nanostructures blends into electron microscope photograph of the same structures

Some Self-Assembly Required

A new screening platform combines machine learning with high-throughput experimentation to identify self-assembling nanoparticles for drug delivery. Nanoparticles, usually made from lipids, polymers or both, can improve a drug’s pharmacokinetics. However, nanoparticle production can be complex and their drug payload small. In a study published in Nature Nanotechnology, researchers from the Langer and Traverso Labs screened 2.1 million pairings of small molecule drugs and inactive drug ingredients, identifying 100 new nanoparticle formulations that are simple to create and shuttle larger drug cargoes. One of those nanoparticles, combining the cancer medicine sorafenib with glycyrrhizin (the primary flavoring of licorice), proved more effective than than sorafenib alone in both cell culture and a genetic mouse model of liver cancer. more...

Time to Face the Mucus

Irvine Lab researchers are building an army of T cells ready to fight disease in the respiratory tract. The inhalable vaccines use the naturally occurring protein albumin to carry immune response-generating antigens into the mucosal lining of lungs and lymph nodes, where soldier T cells learn to recognize and fend off unwanted intruders. In a study published in Science Immunology and funded in part by the Bridge Project and the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, researchers observed a 25-fold increase in T cell response over traditional muscular injections. Ultimately, the team aims to develop vaccines that protect against both viruses and cancer, and combat metastasis by priming the mucosal lining in key organs to reject invading cancer cells. The technology has been licensed by Elicio Therapeutics, which will begin clinical testing of an albumin-binding vaccine later this year. more...

illustration of two cancer cells watching a home video

A Field Guide to Cancer Progression

Tag along with the Whitehead Institute’s “Cells Over Time” series to explore key moments of cancer progression. First stop: Jaenisch Lab, where chimeras shed new light on the cellular origins of neuroblastoma. In collaboration with the Spranger Lab, the researchers investigate how newly formed cancer cells “trick” immune cells into not destroying them. Spranger Lab technologies are also being used in the Weinberg Lab to understand the changes that occur when breast cancer cells become metastatic and acclimate to far-flung homes. Of course, this whirlwind tour would not be complete without a visit to the Weissman Lab where researchers have adapted a lung cancer model developed by the Jacks Lab to analyze gene expression as tumors evolve. Together, these intrepid explorers are charting a way forward in cancer biology. more...

Paula Hammond and Barack Obama in the lab

Scientific Modeling

Paula Hammond guest edits C&EN’s 2021 Trailblazers issue, highlighting the achievements of Black chemists and engineers in their own voices. Amid the reflections on past and present research, accomplishment and inclusion, career origins and evolutions, don’t miss Hammond’s own profile, tracing her path from young nerd to nanomaterials pioneer. more...

two researchers work together on a small device

Breaking Through Cancer: Collaborative translational research goes nationwide

Break Through Cancer announced its formal launch as a public foundation designed to find new solutions to the most intractable challenges in cancer. Led by Dr. Tyler Jacks, the David H. Koch Professor of Biology and Founding Director of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, Break Through Cancer will fund and support collaborative research teams drawn from several of the country’s top cancer centers. more...

woman in lab coat stand next to a chart

The Companies They Keep

The Future Founders Initiative is off and running, making important strides to increase the number of woman-founded companies in biotech. Led by KI members Sangeeta Bhatia and Harvey Lodish, the initiative builds on Bhatia's recent work with Susan Hockfield and Nancy Hopkins around gender disparities in entrepreneurship, focusing on networking and community building. more...