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

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In the News

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...