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

Peter Ghoroghchian

Peter Ghoroghchian

Charles W. and Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator

Ph.D. 2006, University of Pennsylvania

M.D. 2008, University of Pennsylvania


KI Research Areas of Focus:
Nano-based Drugs, Detection & Monitoring, Personalized Medicine


Current Cancer Area of Interest:
Breast cancer, Cervical cancer, Ovarian cancer, Prostate cancer

“Our laboratory focuses on the rational design of materials for cancer diagnosis, accelerated therapeutic discovery and oncologic drug delivery. Our efforts are directly motivated by shortcomings in the current clinical practice of medical oncology. Specifically, we aim to better understand which patients will benefit from a specific molecular therapy, to accelerate the discovery of new drugs that target genetic changes in a patient’s tumor, and to mitigate the significant side effects of more potent experimental therapies that have hitherto limited their clinical application. Through bioinorganic chemistry (the study of metallic compounds in biological systems), nanomaterials science, advanced spectroscopy and molecular imaging studies, we are currently developing several technologies to better address each of the aforementioned challenges.”

Dr. Ghoroghchian is a Charles W. and Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator in the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. He earned his B.S. in chemical engineering from MIT in 1999, followed by Ph.D. (2006) and M.D. (2008) degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. After medical school, Dr. Ghoroghchian completed internship and residency training in Internal Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, as well as fellowship training in hematology and medical oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Massachusetts General Hospital. His investigations are further informed by his experience in the biotechnology industry; a co-founder and chief scientist at Vindico NanoBioTechnology, Inc., Dr. Ghoroghchian has also overseen research efforts at PhenoTech, Inc., and other firms.

Further Information

Research Summary

The Ghoroghchian laboratory is focused on developing technologies to overcome several key challenges in the current clinical practice of medical oncology:

1) Understanding heterogeneous responses at different tumor foci within a patient or between patients with seemingly similar diseases

The Ghoroghchian laboratory is currently developing novel emissive nanoparticles as preclinical imaging tools to enable quantitative and longitudinal receptor phenotyping, immune cell profiling, and monitoring of therapeutic response of tumors within their microenvironments and in all locations within a subject. The goal of this project is to better understand the mechanisms of cancer resistance to current state-of-the-art therapies that target cell surface receptors. This research aims develop novel methods to triage patients at any point during the course of their treatments, so as to ensure that they are responding to their administered therapies at the earliest possible points. Ultimately, insights gained as a result of such efforts may aid in new drug combination strategies and in the tailoring of personalized treatment regimens to maximize tumor response for a given patient.

2) Discovering effective drug therapies that specifically target the regulation of genetic processes that have become abnormal and that differentiate cancer from normal cell behavior

A second project involves the generation of high-throughput drug discovery technologies using nanoparticles as biological sensors. The Ghoroghchian group aims to more efficiently and accurately screen for small molecules that disrupt multiple intracellular interactions that control gene regulation and on which cancer cells are uniquely reliant to survive and metastasize. The goals of these research efforts are to develop comprehensive drug screening assays that require no wash steps, produce results from a single screen in the order of minutes, and that can simultaneously screen for the activity of a single compound against multiple biomolecules, providing the quantitative association for the interaction between the drug and each of its intended targets. Overall, such a high-throughput small molecule drug-screen aims to accelerate pharmaceutical development of novel therapies against a myriad of newly discovered gene mutations in virtually every hematologic and solid tumor malignancy.

3) Overcoming significant side effects encountered in the development of more potent cytotoxic therapies or therapeutic combinations that limit their clinical application.

Finally, the Ghoroghchian laboratory aims to expand the functional utility of protein-based reagents in order to overcome limitations associated with therapeutic small molecules, antibodies, and aptamer-based drug conjugates for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Members are currently developing bioconjugates of small molecules, highly potent toxins, as well as advanced therapeutic nanoparticles to novel cancer binding and cell-penetrating reagents. They are further validating the selectivity and potency of these novel agents in high-throughput screens. Overall, they aim to selectively deliver highly potent therapeutics that possess unprecedented sensitivity for inhibiting cancer growth, and are testing their agents in mouse model systems with the hopes of advancing several promising candidates for further preclinical and clinical development.

Selected Publications

Qi W, Ghoroghchian PP, Li G, Hammer DA, and Therien MJ. “Aqueous Self-Assembly of Poly(ethylene oxide)-block-Poly(e-caprolactone) (PEO-b-PCL) Copolymers: Disparate Diblock Copolymer Compositions Give Rise to Nano- and Meso-Scale Bilayered Vesicles.” Nanoscale (2013), vol 5(22), 10908-15. PMID: 24056924

Ghoroghchian PP, Therien MJ, Hammer DA. “In Vivo Fluorescence Imaging: A Personal Perspective.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews NanoMedicine and NanoBiotechnology (2009); vol 1(2), 156-67. PMID: 20049787

Levine DH, Ghoroghchian PP, Freudenberg J, Zhang G, Therien MJ, Greene MI, Hammer DA, Murali R. “Polymersomes: A New Multi-functional Tool for Cancer Diagnosis and Therapy.” Methods (2008), vol. 46(1), 5-32. PMID: 18572025

Duncan TV*, Ghoroghchian PP*, Rubstov IV, Frail PR, Hammer DA, Therien MJ. “Ultrafast Excited State Dynamics of Nanoscale Near-Infrared Emissive Polymersomes.” Journal of the American Chemical Society (2008), vol. 130(30), 9773-9784. PMID: 18611010

Ghoroghchian PP, Frail PR, Li G, Zupancich J, Bates FS, Hammer DA, Therien MJ. “Controlling Bulk Optical Properties of Emissive Polymersomes Through Intramembranous Polymer-Fluorophore Interactions.” Chemistry of Materials (2007), vol. 9(6), 1309-1318. PMID: 19079789

Ghoroghchian PP, Lin JJ, Brannan AK, Frail PR, Bates FS, Therien MJ, Hammer DA. “Quantitative Membrane Loading of Polymer Vesicles.” Soft Matter (2006), vol. 2(11), 973-980. PMID: pending

Lin JJ, Ghoroghchian PP, Zhang Y, Bates FS, Hammer DA. “Adhesion of Antibody-Functionalized Polymersomes.” Langmuir, (2006), vol. 22(9), 3975-3979.  PMID: 16618135

Ghoroghchian PP, Li G, Levine DH, Davis KP, Bates FS, Hammer DA, Therien MJ. “Bioresorbable Vesicles Formed through Spontaneous Self-Assembly of Amphiphilic Polyethyleneoxide-Block-Polycaprolactone.” Macromolecules, (2005), vol. 39, 1673-1675.  PMID: 20975926

Ghoroghchian PP, Frail PR, Susumu K, Park TH, Wu SP, Uyeda HT, Hammer DA, Therien MJ. “Broad Spectral Domain Fluorescence Wavelength Modulation of Visible and Near-Infrared Emissive Polymersomes.” Journal of the American Chemical Society, (2005), vol. 127, 15388-15390. PMID: 16262400

Ghoroghchian PP, Frail PR, Susumu K, Blessington D, Brannan AK, Bates FS, Chance B, Hammer DA, Therien MJ. “Near-Infrared-Emissive Polymersomes: Self-Assembled Soft Matter for In Vivo Optical Imaging.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, (2005) vol. 102(8), 2922-2927. PMID:15708979

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Contact Information

Peter Ghoroghchian

room 76-261F
phone (617) 715-4470

Ghoroghchian Lab

phone (617) 324-7689