microscopic image of cells with DNA in magenta and lysosomal markers on surface in green

Spring Cleaning

MIT News

Manalis Lab researchers have discovered that before cells divide, they take out the molecular trash. In a study appearing in eLife and funded by the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, the team detected a drop in the dry mass of cancer cells using a technique deploying the Manalis Lab’s signature suspended microchannel resonator. Further experimentation revealed an uptick in lysosomal exocytosis, a process where lysosomes—cell organelles that process cellular waste—jettison their contents. Because exocytosis plays a role in the development of resistance to some chemotherapies, the findings could inform new strategies for making cancer cells more susceptible to treatment.

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Vote now for KI cancer research in STAT Madness


KI cancer research needs your support in STAT's annual bracket-style tournament to find the best innovations in science and medicine. Register or sign in to your free STAT account to vote early and often for these three projects: the Jacks Lab's new pancreatic cancer approach in Matchup 5; the Barzilay Lab's AI-enhanced mammography in Matchup 16; and the Langer/Traverso Lab's collaboration with Duke University to improve drug delivery with machine learning and high-throughput design in Matchup 10.

KI Leadership Team Updates

MIT Koch Institute

Jackie Lees has stepped aside after more than 20 years as an Associate Director, first at the MIT Center for Cancer Research and then at the Koch Institute. She had an enormous impact in shaping our current organization, as well as the Robert A. Swanson (1969) Biotechnology Center and core facilities. Lees will continue to support the work of MIT and the Koch Institute through her role as Associate Dean in the MIT School of Science. Angela Koehler has been named interim associate director, joining Darrell Irvine in providing administrative oversight of various research and community initiatives.

Two Degrees of Preparation

MIT News

Doyle Lab alum Nidhi Juthani is learning the languages of both science and business. Juthani’s doctoral work focused on developing hydrogel microparticles for microRNA and extracellular vesicle detection with the goal of improving tools for researching and diagnosing diseases, including cancer. With her PhD complete, Juthani is now pursuing an MBA at the Sloan School of Management with the goal of launching a career where she can serve as a bridge between scientific research and industry.

Mens, manus, et mentorship

MIT News

In addition to his award-winning work to understand and model metastatic colorectal cancer, Jacks Lab undergraduate researcher Daniel Zhang has found numerous ways to create STEM mentorship pipelines within and beyond MIT. He credits MIT’s “mens et manus” philosophy, which encourages the hands-on application of knowledge, as significant to his success.  



Cheers to Regina Barzilay and Sangeeta Bhatia on making the 2022 STATUS List! STAT’s list, featuring 46 leaders in health, medicine, and science, highlights Barzilay’s machine learning model to improve risk assessment for breast cancer and Bhatia’s efforts to increase the number of women founders in biotech through the Future Founders Initiative.  

Probing Protein Pairing

MIT News

No protein is an island; most rely on partners to carry out their vital functions. A new screening method from the Keating Lab probes more deeply into how proteins recognize and bind to one another. In studies published in eLife last December and January, researchers used information generated by the new method to guide the design of a synthetic molecule that binds ENAH, a protein implicated in cancer metastasis. Their results could inform the future design of cancer drugs, as well as fundamental understandings about cell function and regulation

Langer Wins BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award

BBVA Foundation

Robert Langer, David H. Koch (1962) Institute Professor, has won the prestigious BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Biology and Biomedicine category. He shares the award with Dr. Katalin Karikó and Dr. Drew Weissman  in recognition of their contributions to messenger (mRNA) therapeutics and delivery technology, which enabled the rapid development SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and promises to expand to other therapeutical areas, including cancer, autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders, enzyme deficiencies, and other viral infections. In particular, Langer is cited for his work enabling the repackaging mRNA and other macromolecule therapeutics for their delivery into cells.

Interactions of Interest

Morgridge Institute for Research

A new paper in Science Advances describes how cancer cells can hijack the metabolic activity of certain non-cancer cells in the pancreas to fuel tumor growth. The study combines a sophisticated 3D organoid model developed by the Vander Heiden Lab with optical imaging from the Morgridge Institute’s Skala Lab to better understand tumor cell proliferation in the context of the tumor microenvironment.

The Right Tempo for Cancer Screening

MIT News

Tempo, an AI-based tool developed by Regina Barzilay, tailors breast cancer screening guidelines to a patient’s individual risk. A study of hospital datasets published in Nature Medicine showed that Tempo worked most efficiently when paired with the team’s risk-assessment algorithm Mirai, detecting cancer earlier while recommending fewer screenings overall. The technology’s dynamic framework is designed to make cancer screenings more cost-effective and equitable.

Seq and Ye Shall Find

Broad Institute

One major challenge in cancer genetics is figuring out which of the millions of protein-coding mutations drive disease. A report appearing in Nature Biotechnology describes a new method that combines experimental and computational approaches to assess the functions of these genetic alterations. The work builds on sequencing tools developed in the Broad Institute labs of KI members Aviv Regev and Jesse Boehm.