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

Vander Heiden Named HHMI Inaugural Faculty Scholar

Congratulations to KI faculty member Matthew Vander Heiden, who has been named to HHMI’s inaugural class of Faculty Scholars. This program, the first collaboration between the HHMI, the Simons Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recognizes awardees’ “great potential to make unique contributions to their field.” Vander Heiden, a rising star in the field of cancer metabolism, was chosen, along with three other MIT faculty members, from more than 1,400 applicants; the full cohort consists of 84 early career scientists from 43 institutions across the U.S.  more...

Sweet Success for KI Startups 

Congratulations to KI startups PanTher and Suono Bio for being selected as the winners of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Golden Tickets for LabCentral, an innovative launch pad lab space for life-sciences and biotech startups. Both companies were chosen for their innovative technologies that have the potential to improve the lives of patients; PanTher first began as part of the Bridge Project, a unique translational research collaboration between the KI and Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. more...

The Langer Lab: Pros at Probiotic Delivery

Probiotics are increasingly used to aid in the treatment of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses, but how can we ensure their delivery to benefit the gut microbiome? New findings from the Langer Lab, published in Advanced Materials, may have the answer, in the form of layer-by-layer encapsulation. While probiotics are easily available over the counter, these store bought capsules often have no protective coating and can include cells that are no longer viable –rendering them ineffective. Layer-by-layer encapsulation tackles this problem by coating the bacteria with a total of four thin, alternating layers of positively and negatively charged polysaccharides (sugars), respectively known as chitosan and alginate. These mucoadhesive materials stick to the lining of the intestines and protect the probiotics from acid in the stomach, as well as from bile salts. Testing their delivery strategy in mice, researchers found that coated bacteria survived at a rate six times greater than that of uncoated bacteria. There is potential for this delivery method to replace experimental GI treatments such as fecal transplant, or be easily packaged into a capsule or dried powder for medicinal use. In the meantime, the Langer Lab continues to work on making the coatings responsive to acidity levels in order to directly target the troubled parts of the GI tract, and to deliver microbes to other parts of the body such as the skin or mouth – meaning more much-needed relief could be on the way. more...

Lippard Named 2016 Welch Award in Chemistry Recipient

Stephen Lippard, KI extramural faculty member and the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor at MIT, has been honored as a 2016 Welch Award in Chemistry Recipient. The award is given to those who have made important chemical research contributions which have a significant, positive influence on mankind. Lippard was selected for his many extraordinary accomplishments; a notable one being his contribution to research that involves the role of metal ions in biological systems, which allowed deep understanding of the inner workings of the drug, cisplatin. Thanks in large part to Lippard’s findings and his attention to important clinical issues such as drug design and delivery, cisplatin is now a widely used antitumor agent, with a particularly impressive success rate in the treatment of testicular cancer. Learn more about Lippard's accomplishments and the Welch Award in Chemistry. more...

More Than Skin Deep

KI graduate student Anasuya Mandal wants to make a difference in human health. Working with KI faculty members Paula Hammond, a David H. Koch Professor of Engineering, and Darrell Irvine, Mandal has been leveraging the power of microneedle technology to improve disease management and vaccine design. The device she uses was previously featured in the Koch Institute Image Awards and has also been used to investigate strategies for studying tumorigenesis and cancer cell biology. Mandal, a chemical engineer whose work thus far has focused on autoimmune diseases, is interested in health care consulting and excited about the possibilities of expanding the technology’s applications to include diagnosis and monitoring. “I've always wanted to have a way to make somebody else's life better,” she says. Read more. more...

“I think the statistics are all getting better. What I like to say is that I’m just impatient with the slope of the line,” Bhatia (pictured above, left) says. “I have two young girls. I want it to be better already.”

Bhatia Discusses Gender Diversity in Biotech

Diversity in high-tech industries has been increasingly under the microscope in recent years, but one thing KI faculty member and entrepreneur Sangeeta Bhatia thinks is missing from the conversation is why people should care. In this article, she sits down with Xconomy to discuss the imperative need for gender diversity both on a sector-wide and individual level, as well as her ideal timeline for progress in this area. more...

Deep in the Heart of Tumors

As tumors grow, the distribution of cells within them becomes increasingly heterogeneous. Researchers in the KI’s Jacks Laboratory are using a cell-specific visualization technique known as mosaic analysis with double markers (MADM) to examine the diversity of cell types within mouse models of certain lung and pancreatic cancers. Their experiments examine the effects of mutations to the p53 tumor suppressor gene on cancer initiation and progression. MADM’s unique fluorescent tagging system allows researchers to track genetic changes among cell populations and characterize the tumors at various stages of their development. The results, appearing in Nature Communications, present the first experimental in vivo evidence of genetically distinct subclonal (mutant offspring of cloned cells) population dispersion in solid tumors, as well as further details about the science behind lead author Mandar Muzumdar’s award-winning image The Bad Seed, previously seen in the KI’s 2014 Image Awards exhibition. more...

Resistance is Brutal

Chemotherapy induces damage in both cancer and normal cells, and it is increasingly clear that the non-cancerous cells in the tumor can contribute to the development of therapeutic resistance. Building on previous work in this area, researchers in the laboratory of KI faculty member Michael Hemann, have discovered that doxorubicin, a common chemotherapeutic agent, induces a previously uncharacterized response in endothelial cells (the cells lining the blood vessels). This response, termed “acute stress-associate phenotype” or “ASAP” can promote chemoresistance in B-cell lymphoma through the activation of a signaling pathway affecting inflammation and cytokine secretion. Their results, published in Genes & Development, emphasize the importance of studying not just cancer cells themselves, but also the tumor microenvironment in order to develop targeted treatments to suppress such resistance mechanisms. Read article   more...

Bhatia Lab Helps CRISPR See the Light

Researchers in the laboratory of KI faculty member Sangeeta Bhatia have developed a new way to target cells for gene editing, using ultraviolet light. By creating customizable, light-sensitive DNA “protectors,” the team can turn the RNA “guides” that work within the popular CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing system to target individual sections of the genome, into switches that turn on and off the genes of interest. This modularized approach offers greater control over the system, allowing researchers to more precisely study genetic drivers of development and disease, and could provide a new strategy for turning off cancer-causing genes within tumor cells.

The work, led by postdoc Piyush Jain, has been covered by multiple news outlets, including TED Blog, Futurism, The Longevity Reporter, TSS, OncoTherapy Network, and Sina.com (in Chinese).     more...

Thanks for the Memories

Dear Cell Diary: Today, we learned that researchers in the laboratory of extramural KI faculty member Timothy Lu are using CRISPR/Cas9 to engineer human cells to genetically encode their own history. Now these cells can maintain a record of multiple genetic events over the course of their lifetime! Most immediately, this technology could be used in laboratory research; eventually, cells' ability to remember complex biological histories could be used to monitor cancer progression and identify key genetic contributions to the disease.  more...