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Happy Holidays and New Year!

Reflecting back on the impactful, award-winning work coming out of our laboratories and the joyful celebrations of our fifth anniversary year, we feel tremendous pride and gratitude. As we look forward to the year ahead, we know that the diverse and brilliant minds who thrive on the convergence of science and engineering within our institute will provide strength and hope to our shared mission, the future of human health, and those who have been affected by the challenges of cancer. Thank you for your unwavering support—our success would not be possible without the power of our community. From ours to yours, we wish you a happy holiday season and a new year full of progress and prosperity.

Cima Named 2016 NAI Fellow
Michael Cima

Congratulations to Michael Cima, Koch Institute faculty member and David H. Koch Professor of Engineering, for being elected as a 2016 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors — one of the highest professional distinctions for academic inventors. The NAI consists of 757 fellows representing 229 research universities, government, and non-profit institutes. Michael is known for his expertise in the field of materials processing and focuses on creating diagnostics and treatments for cancer, metabolic diseases, trauma, and urological disorders. Following his induction in April at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Michael will become the seventh KI member to be elected to the NAI. He joins a prestigious group that includes Angela Belcher, Sangeeta Bhatia, Robert Horvitz, Elazer Edelman, Ram Sasisekharan, and Robert Langer. Read more.

Eeny Mena Miney Moe...

How do you choose the right drug for a patient? Paclitaxel (commercially known as Taxol) is often used to treat triple negative breast cancer. However, numerous patients do not respond to this chemotherapy and many who do eventually develop resistance. Researchers in the laboratory of KI faculty member Frank Gertler have been studying how varying levels of the Mena protein, which they previously showed promotes cancer cell mobility, affects cancer cells' response to paclitaxel and other drugs used to treat triple negative breast cancer. The team found that high levels of Mena are associated with poor response and resistance to paclitaxel, but not to other chemotherapeutic drugs tested, indicating that Mena levels may be useful in predicting patient drug response and planning treatment. They also showed that combining paclitaxel with a drug that blocks the resistance pathway activated by Mena may lead to improved outcome. The Gertler group now intends to apply their findings to patient samples. The company MetaStat, co-founded by Frank Gertler, is developing antibodies to measure Mena protein expression in human biopsy samples, with the hope that catching Taxol by its toehold will help doctors choose the very best therapies to use against this aggressive cancer type. This work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund. Read more.

Young and Full of (Piezoelectric) Energy

Clear the way for this KI member's dynamic future! Canan Dagdeviren was named the winner of the Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists in Translational Science. Canan, a postdoctoral fellow in the Langer Lab, was selected for her essay “The future of bionic dynamos”, which describes her work in creating a novel type of battery that can transform the available mechanical energy from the natural movement of organs into electric energy used to power various implanted medical devices, such as cardiac pacemakers. To honor her win, Canan was awarded a medal earlier this month in Stockholm, as well as given the opportunity to attend the 2016 Nobel Prize Ceremony. Read more.

Damage Control

What doesn’t kill cancer cells makes them stronger, or so goes the adage of chemotherapy resistance. Researchers in the laboratory of extramural KI faculty member Leona Samson have developed a new model for anticipating whether or not cells will respond to DNA-damaging chemotherapy. Using a technique designed to analyze the capacity of four DNA repair pathways simultaneously, the team successfully predicted brain tumor cells’ response to temozolomide, a first-line drug in the treatment of glioblastoma. Because many chemotherapies kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA to provoke cell death, the ability to forecast variations in cell sensitivity and DNA damage repair capacity among patients will improve the potential for personalized treatment. Read more.

Schoellhammer Makes Waves

KI researcher Carl Schoellhammer made waves last month after being named the 2016 Graduate Gold Medal Winner at the Collegiate Inventors Competition for his invention SuonoCalm. SuonoCalm is a platform technology that enables the ultra-rapid delivery of therapeutics to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and is designed to be a user-friendly device that allows patients to self-administer medication at home. Schoellhammer, a postdoctoral fellow in the Langer Lab, beat out five other Graduate finalist teams to snag the top spot and the $10,000 prize. Congratulations, Carl! Read more.

KI Alum to Head CSHL Cancer Center
David Tuveson

David Tuveson, a former member of the Jacks Lab, has been appointed Director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Cancer Center. Tuveson, who also received his bachelor's degree at MIT, worked as a postdoc with KI director Tyler Jacks, where he was a core contributor to Jacks’ signature Kras-driven mouse models of cancer. The Roy J. Zuckerberg Professor of Cancer Research at CSHL and the head of the Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratory at CSHL, Tuveson is also the Lustgarten Foundation’s Director of Research. He takes the reins of director from long-standing Koch Institute Scientific Advisory Board member Bruce Stillman, who will remain CSHL’s president and chief executive. David’s new appointment makes him the second Jacks Lab alumnus to head a cancer center, following Reuben Shaw's appointment as director of the Salk Institute Cancer Center in January. The KI is proud to have one of our own leading CSHL’s cancer-conquering efforts and congratulates Dr. Tuveson on this notable milestone in his career. Read more.

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