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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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Alum for the Ride

MIT News

Irvine and Wittrup lab researchers have developed a technique to make cytokine therapy less toxic. These immunostimulatory molecules are quite potent and can have devastating side effects if administered systemically. In a preclinical study appearing in Nature Biomedical Engineering and supported in part by the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, the researchers anchored the cytokines to tumors with aluminum hydroxide, a compound that is often used to make vaccines more effective. They then administered immune checkpoint blockade therapy, observing that the tumors were eliminated in 50 to 90 percent of the mice across three cancer types. The technology has been licensed to a startup company that hopes to begin clinical trials by the end of the year.

Suono Science

Business Wire

Suono Bio, co-founded by Robert Langer, used low-frequency ultrasound to deliver short interfering RNA (siRNA) to disrupt the expression of Ctnnb 1, a gene implicated in colorectal cancer. The study, published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciencesdemonstrates how their technology could be used for formulation-agnostic delivery of RNA therapeutics.

Incorporating Diversity

The New York Times

Paula Hammond spoke to The New York Times about a recent uptick in the diversity of corporate boards and the advantages of bringing different perpectives, knowledge, and experience into the boardroom. Hammond, an Institute Professor who also serves on President Biden’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, was approached for the first time in 2020 to serve on a board.

Cheers to the 2021 Karches Prize Winners

MIT Koch Institute

The Peter Karches Mentorship Prize is awarded annually to KI trainees and technicians serving as mentors to high school and undergraduate students while working in KI laboratories. Congratulations to this year's winners, Coralie Backlund (Irvine Lab), Jason Conage-Pough (White  Lab), Alicia Darnell (Vander Heiden Lab), and Jay Mahat (Sharp Lab), and thank you to all those who submitted nominations. We are proud to celebrate the critical role mentorship plays in engaging the next generation of cancer researchers.

Nano-mentary, My Dear Watson

Upstage Lung Cancer

Upstage Lung Cancer’s podcast episode, “What If Sherlock Holmes Had Cancer,” explores the use of nanoparticles to detect early clues to lung cancer. Expert witnesses include KI trainees Jesse Kirkpatrick and Christina Cabana, Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine Assistant Director Tarek Fadel, and KI Executive Director Jane Wilkinson.

Intermural Networks

Jameel Clinic

Researchers from MIT’s Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning and the Koch Institute came together to discuss applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence in the study, detection, and treatment of cancer. The meeting, which included research presentations and a networking reception, laid the groundwork for future collaboration, partnerships, and exchanges.

Swing States

MIT News

Analyzing the RNA expression patterns of cancer cells can reveal their susceptibility to different drugs, according to new work from Shalek and Manalis lab researchers and their Bridge Project collaborators. In a study of pancreatic cancer cells, published in Cell, the team also demonstrated that changes to the tumor microenvironment can drive cells from one RNA-expression state to another. Their findings suggest that it may be possible to treat some patients’ tumors more effectively by first modifying signals in the tumor microenvironment to lock it in a particular state, and then giving a drug that targets that state.

The work was funded in part by the Bridge Project and the Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology at MIT.

Organ-ic Questions in Cancer Biology

MIT News

New KI faculty member Kristin Knouse studies regeneration in the liver to understand how tissues sense and respond to damage. As a clinically trained cell biologist, Knouse has a joint interest in medical applications and fundamental biological questions, including how seemingly dormant cancer cells drive metastatic disease.

More Powerful Vaccines

MIT News

A potent adjuvant from the Irvine Lab significantly improves antibody production in mice after vaccination against HIV, diphtheria, and influenza. The immune system-boosting nanoparticle, described in a study published in Science Immunology and funded in part by the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, may also have applications for vaccines against Covid-19 and cancer.

Standing Innovation

National Academy of Inventors

Congratulations to Paula Hammond on her election to the National Academy of Inventors Fellows Program. The program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.