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

Going Chiral

Controlling chirality—the so-called “handedness” of a molecule’s structure—improves the performance of drug-delivering nanoparticles, according to new research from the Langer Lab. The Advanced Materials study showed that when coated in the “right-handed” form of amino acid cysteine, nanoparticles avoided destruction by enzymes and penetrated cancer cells more easily.   more...

Transforming Early Detection: More Than Meets the A.I.

KI member and computer scientist Regina Barzilay spoke with The New York Times and PBS’s FRONTLINE about how her own breast cancer diagnosis inspired her to use machine learning tools to empower physicians and patients alike. Working with physician Connie Lehman, Barzilay’s A.I. systems are improving mammography and enabling earlier detection—and prediction—of the disease. more...

Lumicell Hits the Home Stretch

KI startup Lumicell launched a pivotal trial for its Lumicell Imaging System, a final step toward FDA approval for the innovative image-guided cancer surgery technology. Supported early on by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund, the system was developed by KI member Linda Griffith, with MIT collaborator Moungi Bawendi and former KI administrator W. David Lee ’69. Lumicell’s system pairs an injectable contrast agent with a hand-held, single-cell resolution imager to scan surgical margins for residual cancer cells. Proprietary software produces real-time images that help surgeons take immediate action to prevent repeat surgeries, lower healthcare costs, and improve patient outcomes. more...

Co-lead author Leanne Li standing by mini-MRI used in the study.

New target for small cell lung cancer

Researchers in the Jacks and Vander Heiden labs identified a new therapeutic target for small cell lung cancer (SCLC), an especially aggressive form of lung cancer with limited options for treatment. In a study appearing in Science Translational Medicine and funded in part by the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, the team used genetic screens to search for SCLC targets that could be tested relatively quickly and easily in a clinical setting. Researchers discovered a metabolic vulnerability to the loss of DHODH, a key enzyme in the pyrimidine synthesis pathway. They also found that a DHODH inhibitor brequinar—already approved for use in patients as an immunosuppressant—slowed tumor progression and increased survival in SCLC mouse models and was effective in treating two of four patient-derived small cell lung cancer tumor models.  more...

Cell-based Therapy Squeezes into Human Trials

Paving the way for SQZ Biotech’s first human trial, the FDA accepted the company’s IND application for a cell-based therapeutic vaccine to treat HPV-positive tumors, including reproductive and head and neck cancers. SQZ’s therapies, based on research by the KI’s Langer and Irvine labs, with MIT collaborator Klavs Jensen, activate the immune system against cancer. SQZ’s signature CellSqueeze device opens a temporary hole in a cell membrane through which materials can pass, in this case inserting tumor-associated antigens into peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Proof-of-concept studies demonstrating the potential of both the device and a strategy using B-cells (one type of PBMC) were supported by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund. more...

Bhatia’s Biomarkers Bring Insight to the Clinic

Glympse Bio, founded by Sangeeta Bhatia, will move its early detection and monitoring strategy into patients as part of Gilead’s NASH clinical program. The Bhatia lab’s activity-based nanosensors for cancer, fibrosis, and other conditions release synthetic urinary biomarkers into the body when they encounter diseased cells. Developed in part with support from the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program, they will help determine disease stage and treatment responses in real time. NASH, or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, is an advanced form of fatty liver disease linked to obesity and a major risk factor for liver cancer, for which there are few treatment options. more...

Introducing the 2019-2020 Convergence Scholars

The Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine and the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine are pleased to announce the 2019-2020 class of Convergence Scholars. The Convergence Scholars Program (CSP) provides postdoctoral trainees with opportunities to further their experiences and skills beyond the research laboratory. Scholars will learn more about science project development, policy, technology transfer, education and outreach, business and finances, industry, and the clinic. more...

Bhatia and Young Elected to the National Academy of Medicine

Congratulations to KI faculty members Sangeeta Bhatia and Richard Young on their election to the National Academy of Medicine. Bhatia was honored for “pioneering small-scale technologies to interface cells with synthetic platforms.” She is one of only 25 individuals who have been elected to all three National Academies—a distinction shared with fellow KI investigators Paula Hammond and Robert Langer. Young was honored "for fundamental insights into gene control in human health and disease, invention of widely used new technologies, and the development of novel therapeutics for cancer." more...

Golden Anniversary for Luria's Gold Medal

Fifty years ago, on the heels of a historic summer, microbiologist and MIT professor Salvador E. Luria learned he had just won the Nobel Prize. Shortly after the passage of the National Cancer Act of 1971 Luria successfully applied for funds to build a cancer research facility at MIT, overseeing its construction and recruiting scientists with expertise in genetics, immunology, and cell biology. As inaugural director, Luria and his founding faculty opened the MIT Center for Cancer Research in 1974, and quickly set the standard for investigating the fundamental nature of cancer.  Faculty members isolated the first human oncogene, discovered RNA splicing, and made numerous other seminal contributions to cancer biology and genetics, laying the groundwork for new methods to treat and diagnose cancer. In tribute to the individual who spearheaded the formation of the MIT’s first dedicated cancer research effort the Koch Institute is working, with friends and the MIT administration, to name the Koch Institute’s main meeting space the Salvador E. Luria Auditorium.   more...

Combating Resistance in Pancreatic Cancer

The chemotherapy gemcitabine is among the most effective pancreatic cancer therapies, yet nearly all patients fail to respond or quickly develop resistance. A recent Cancer Research paper highlights work by the Hemann lab, in collaboration with the Vander Heiden group, to better understand how pancreatic tumor stroma—prominent fibrotic tissue that surrounds the tumor— limits gemcitabine response. Their findings implicate a metabolite known as deoxycytidine, which is secreted by stromal cells called pancreatic stellate cells, and inhibits gemcitabine processing in tumor cells. Their work suggests that reducing deoxycytidine production in the stellate cells may increase the efficacy of gemcitabine and similar therapies. This work was supported in part by a David H. Koch fellowship and the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine; KI members Jacqueline Lees and Doug Lauffenburger are also senior authors.  more...