Metastasis, Precision medicine
Our improved understanding of cancer metabolism—what nutrients cancer cells use and how those nutrients are used in different conditions—has led to exciting new ways to think about drug development.
Cancer cells have metabolic requirements that differ from most normal, non-proliferating cells. To proliferate, cancer cells must transform available nutrients into the varied array of macromolecules that are needed to build a new cell. Each cancer type is unique and will have a metabolic phenotype that depends on tissue type, genetic factors, and local environment. How specific cancers integrate these factors and rewire their metabolism to support cancer progression is a major unanswered question.
The long-term goal of the Vander Heiden Laboratory is to understand how mammalian cell metabolism is adapted to support cancer initiation and progression. Current interests of the laboratory include: 1) identifying which metabolic processes create bottlenecks for cell proliferation; 2) determining how metabolism is different in different cancers, examining in detail the influence of tissue type, tumor genetics, and tumor microenvironment; and 3) understanding how diet and whole-body metabolism influence cell metabolism in tissues to modify cancer and other disease phenotypes.
Through this work, we aim to advance understanding of metabolic pathway biochemistry and its relationship to cancer and mammalian physiology. Together, these studies will broaden our understanding of cancer cell metabolism and identify approaches to target metabolism for cancer therapy.
Matthew Vander Heiden is the director of the Koch Institute at MIT, the Lester Wolfe (1919) Professor of Molecular Biology, and a member of the Broad Institute. He is a practicing oncologist and instructor in medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School. He earned his doctoral and medical degrees from the University of Chicago, where he worked in the laboratory of Craig Thompson. Vander Heiden then completed a residency in internal medicine at Boston’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital and a hematology-oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Massachusetts General Hospital. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Lewis Cantley at Harvard Medical School, where he was supported by a Mel Karmazin Fellowship from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. In 2010, Vander Heiden joined the MIT faculty. His work has been recognized by many awards including the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Sciences, the AACR Gertrude B. Elion Award, the HHMI Faculty Scholar Award, and an NCI Outstanding Investigator Award. Vander Heiden serves on the scientific advisory board of Yale Cancer Center, the Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center at the Wistar Institute, and Salk's Cancer Center, as well as Agios Pharmaceuticals, Auron Therapeutics (of which he is also an academic founder), iTeos Therapeutics, Sage Therapeutics, Lime Therapeutics, and Pretzel Therapeutics. He is part of the investment advisory board for DROIA Venture Fund.