No 65
Takeda Care of Business

Takeda Pharmaceuticals has given a generous gift to support groundbreaking research in immuno-oncology at the KI. The gift, aimed to encourage several new research approaches over the next two years, will allow investigators to advance their understanding of the relationship between the immune system and cancer, and accelerate the development of new immunotherapeutic tools. Immuno-oncology, prioritized by Takeda as “arguably one of the most impactful recent breakthroughs in cancer research” has been one of the KI’s five core focus areas since its founding. Read more.

Radio Active: KI Cancer Research On the Air

When WBUR launched its new "This Moment in Cancer" series last month, Koch Institute researchers had plenty to say...and share. KI Director and Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel Co-chair Tyler Jacks kicked off the new series by providing insight into the future of cancer research in Boston and also spoke about the promise of cancer immunotherapy. Faculty member and cancer research pioneer Robert Weinberg offered historical and scientific perspectives on the evolution of the field, along with insight into strategies for cancer prevention. Finally, among many other compelling stories, KI alum Viktor Adalsteinsson presented an update on his blood biopsy work: an early detection initiative that began in the KI's Love Lab and continues as an ongoing collaborative effort, in part through essential funding from the Bridge Project.

Can't Wait for the Seq-Well

Fans of the Love Lab’s signature nanowell technology will be captivated by a new paper in Nature Methods, and by the associated opportunities to rapidly isolate and sequence RNA from complex patient samples. Working with researchers in MIT’s Department of Chemistry, KI engineers have developed an accessible, portable platform for sequencing RNA from many cells simultaneously, which allows researchers to identify and analyze different cell types found in individual blood or tissue samples, and to look for patterns in their gene expression. With expected applications for multiple diseases including cancer, the Seq-Well approach is sure to be a blockbuster, coming soon to laboratories near you. In fact, the line is already out the door for the new Nanowell Cytometry platform in the KI’s Flow Cytometry Core Facility, and the research team has joined forces with clinical investigators at Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center to apply this technology toward discovery of new combination immunotherapies as part of the collaborative Bridge Project. Read more.

Out of the Tower, Into the Square

Although the Koch Institute rises high above Main Street and is home to many of MIT's great academic minds, we are far from being an ivory tower. On the MIT Alumni Association's "Slice of MIT" blog, Shelby Doyle, a graduate student in the Koehler Lab, describes the opportunities available to aspiring cancer researchers by virtue of the KI's proximity to other local research institutes, as well as top companies and hospitals. In her piece, Shelby reflects on the KI's collaborative, interdisciplinary nature and describes our neighborhood as a bustling market square — full of innovation and promise — that brings her research to the next level. Read more.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

Seeking to better understand the link between abnormal chromosome numbers and tumor formation, Amon Lab researcher Jason Sheltzer (now a Fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories) worked with KI colleagues to investigate the tumorigenic potential of cells engineered to contain an extra chromosome. While aneuploidy (when a cell has too many or too few chromosomes) is a common feature of cancer, its role in tumor initiation and progression is unclear. In this study, the researchers found that not-yet-malignant cells with a single added chromosome could, surprisingly, suppress tumor growth and better withstand a variety of oncogenic mutations. Sometimes, however, cells adapted to the aneuploidy giving rise to fast-growing descendants that acquired additional changes or returned to the normal diploid state. These results, published in Cancer Cell, suggest that aneuploidy may have both tumor-protective and tumor-promoting effects on the development of cancer. This work was supported in part by the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund. Read more here and here.

Hammond Elected to the NAE

Congratulations to the Koch Institute's Paula Hammond on her election to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), one of the highest professional distinctions that can be accorded to an engineer. Hammond, a David H. Koch Professor of Engineering and the Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, is one of eight faculty members from MIT named to the 2017 NAE Election Class. A polymer chemist, she was selected for her contributions to self-assembly of polyelectrolytes, colloids, and block copolymers at surfaces and interfaces for energy and health care applications. NAE membership is one of many honors that Hammond has been awarded; in October, she was also elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

"We at the KI are proud to call Paula our colleague," said Tyler Jacks, KI Director and a David H. Koch Professor of Biology. "This is an enormous honor and one that is richly deserved." Read more. 

A Nanoparticle Walks Into A Barcode

Come here often? Finding the perfect nanoparticle to target a specific tissue in the treatment of cancer and other diseases is no small feat. However, by incorporating DNA “barcodes” (unique sequences of nucleotides) into the nanoparticle, Anderson Lab researchers, along with KI alumni James Dahlman and Eric Wang, are now able to track multiple particles to different organs simultaneously. More efficient than screening each particle individually, their method will allow researchers to quickly determine which structural formations are most able to home in on tissues of interest, and thereby choose the best candidates for a long term relationship. This work was supported in part by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund. Read more.

Foresight is 30/30

KI researchers Adam Behrens, Jiang He, and Tim Wang were named among Forbes' "30 Under 30" in healthcare for 2017. Adam, a postdoc in the Langer Lab, was chosen for his work on developing vaccines that do not require refrigeration, and diagnostic tests that can detect infectious diseases at patients’ bedsides. Jiang, a postdoc in the Bhatia Lab, was selected for his graduate work on developing single-virus tracking, super-resolution imaging. Tim, a graduate assistant in the Sabatini Lab, was recognized for developing drug screening techniques to identify genes that can be targeted to treat cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Now that's what we call clear vision! Read more.

Lemon Aid: Gastric Acid Provides Power

An ingestible device sounds like an appetizing way to monitor or treat disease, but powering such a platform inside the body is no small feat. Inspired by the tabletop “lemon battery,” the KI's Robert Langer — the David H. Koch Institute Professor — and Langer Lab Research Affiliate Giovanni Traverso teamed up with electrical engineers at MIT to design a low-power electronic system that runs on stomach acid. With potential for sensing, drug delivery, and wireless communication, this technology presents a gutsy solution for many clinical applications, including cancer diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment. Read more.

Tract and Field: Ultrasound Scores Big

RNA-based therapeutics hold great promise for the treatment of many diseases, including cancer. However, delivering nucleic acids directly into cells can be difficult and often entails complex formulations to package the molecules for uptake, especially in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract where they degrade quickly. To overcome this challenge, researchers from the KI’s Langer Lab in collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, including Research Affiliate Giovanni Traverso and Quinquennial Cancer Research Fellow Carl Schoellhammer, used low-frequency ultrasound to deliver uncoated RNA to colon cells.  Using this delivery technique, they successfully reduced protein levels of a signaling molecule associated with inflammatory bowel disease, a GI disorder that is linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. Read more.

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