A mosaic of views of antigen localized to cells.

Safe Haven for Vaccine Antigens

MIT Koch Institute

The Irvine Lab found that order to produce an effective immune response, vaccines must deliver antigens to structures, called follicles, inside lymph nodes. In a study appearing in Science, the researchers demonstrated that antigens not rapidly directed to the follicles were destroyed by proteases. The lab’s follicle-targeting, nanoparticle-based HIV vaccine elicited better antibody responses than traditional vaccines.

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Checking In(hibitors)

MIT News

Checkpoint inhibitors are effective against some types of cancers, working by stimulating exhausted T cells to attack tumors once again. But for lung cancer, this type of immunotherapy has shown mixed results. In a study of mice, the Spranger Lab traced the immune response to lung cancer back to the environment created by microbiota that naturally inhabit the lungs.

Ideally, “killer” T cells are activated in lymph nodes, where they interact with dendritic cells bearing tumor-derived antigens. The team found that while this encounter still took place in lymph nodes near the lungs, the outcome was different than in lymph nodes elsewhere in the body. Regulatory T cells—called into action by interferon gamma produced in response to commensal microbes in the lungs—prevented dendritic cells from activating killer T cells. The study, appearing in Immunity, was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Casey and Family Foundation Cancer Research Fund.

Making His Biomark


Nobel laureate and landmark entrepreneur Phil Sharp recalls his roots as a rural farmer and basketball aspirant in a recent Biomarker feature, and reflects on the people who helped him forge a career in science. Sharp recounts the importance of mentoring, risk-taking, and forming expanded social networks for people like himself, who come from backgrounds where educational and professional opportunities in the field are unknown—and highlights exciting new science that keeps him up at night!

Protein Shake Up

MIT Spectrum

KI member and Biology department head Amy Keating designs protein-protein interactions to thwart disease. Thanks to advances in DNA sequencing and computational tools, her lab's work has evolved over the years to include synthesis of proteins not found in nature—but with potential to block many diseases including cancer. She is optimistic about the use of artificial intelligence and other tools in helping her team make predictions about their invented proteins and build new structures from smaller ones.

Beyond Prostate Cancer

MIT Koch Institute

The Yaffe Lab has discovered a mitotic mechanism that causes the combination of abiraterone, a standard treatment for prostate cancer, and Plk1-1 inhibitors to be more effective against prostate cancer than either drug alone. In a study appearing in Cancer Research and supported in part by the Bridge Project, they also found that the combination of abiraterone and the specific Plk1 inhibitor onvansertib was effective against a variety of other cancers beyond prostate cancer, including some types of pancreatic and ovarian cancers and acute myeloid leukemia.

Brush Up Your Combination Therapy

MIT News

A study appearing in Nature Nanotechnology describes how bottlebrush nanoparticles are able to co-deliver multiple cancer drugs to tumors. Working with former Charles W. (1955) and Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator Peter Ghoroghchian and others, KI member Jeremiah Johnson demonstrates how his lab’s signature technology allows researchers to adjust the ratio of drugs to maximize synergistic effects. The platform could be used to identify new combination therapies or improve effectiveness of already-approved drugs.

Farm Fresh Immunotherapy

Whitehead Institute

KI affiliate Tobi Oni is one of two Valhalla Fellows at the Whitehead Institute studying cancer and the immune system. Oni’s research focuses on how cell surface proteins and alpaca antibodies known as nanobodies can be used to disarm—and even fight back against—pancreatic cancer cells.

Bonjour, Live μ

MIT Biology

Live μ, the first instrument of its kind in the U.S., has landed in the Peterson (1957) Nanotechnology Materials Facility at the Koch Institute. The French-manufactured high-pressured freezer allows scientists to execute a cutting-edge strategy called correlative light electron microscopy (CLEM), where fluorescent light microscopy and electron microscopy images are taken of the same sample. The Live μ, along with the Peterson Facility’s growing suite of resources and workflows, is available to the MIT community.

Foretelling Lung Cancer Risk with AI

MIT News

Sybil—a new AI tool developed by KI member Regina Barzilay and Massachusetts General Hospital clinical collaborators Lecia Sequist and Florian Fintelmann—assesses a patient’s risk of lung cancer over six years by analyzing a single low-dose CT scan.

Unlike current methods, Sybil can make accurate predictions without using demographic or medical information or a radiologist’s annotation. The tool, described in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and profiled in The Washington Post, could be used to identify individuals who need additional testing and closer management and could be particularly useful given the rising incidence of lung cancer among non-smokers. MGH is launching a trial of Sybil, and researchers plan additional testing to ensure that it will maintain its accuracy across diverse populations.

Barzilay and Sequist will share project updates as part of SOLUTIONS with/in/sight: Algorithm & Views on May 4. The work is funded in part by the Bridge Project.  

Committed to Caring

MIT News

MIT’s Office of Graduate Education posthumously recognizes KI member Angelika Amon as “Committed to Caring,” citing her generous and dynamic mentorship and her enduring support of students in and beyond the classroom. Amon’s legacy is further exemplified by the Amon Young Scientist Award. She is one of 15 faculty members in the current cohort of honorees, which includes KI member Michael Birnbaum, who was profiled in December.  

It Takes All Kinases

MIT News

Michael Yaffe, together with longtime collaborators Lew Cantley and Benjamin Turk, created an atlas of protein kinases—signaling molecules that regulate nearly all cellular functions. This resource, described in Nature, could accelerate the pursuit of new cancer drugs and help physicians customize treatment to specific tumors.