No 86
Better Breast Cancer Risk Prediction

A deep-learning model developed by KI member and Delta Electronics Professor Regina Barzilay can predict from a mammogram if a patient is likely to develop breast cancer within five years. Trained on mammograms and outcomes from more than 60,000 patients at Massachusetts General Hospital, the model learned to spot patterns in mammograms that are precursors to malignant tumors. Published in Radiology, the model performed significantly better than existing approaches, and could be used in the future to build personalized breast cancer screening plans. Read more.

At last month's SOLUTIONS with/in/sight, Barzilay was joined by her co-author, Harvard Medical School Professor and Director of Breast Imaging at Massachussetts General Hospital Constance Lehman, to talk about the new model and earlier work using deep-learning models to screen for dense breast tissue. Managing Director of The Boston Globe and STAT Linda Pizzuti Henry moderated the discussion, with an introduction from MIT president emerita and KI faculty member Susan Hockfield. Watch video

Guiding Light

A new system developed by the laboratory of KI member and James Mason Crafts Professor Angela Belcher could pinpoint ovarian tumors during debulking surgery and improve survival rates for patients. Most ovarian cancers are diagnosed in advanced stages of the disease, after tumors—often quite small—have spread so abundantly throughout the abdomen that it is difficult for a surgeon to remove them all. In a mouse study led by Mazumdar-Shaw International Oncology Fellow Neelkanth Bardhan and published in ACS Nano, researchers identified tumors as small as 0.2 millimeters with a combination of near-infrared light and single-walled carbon nanotubule probes. Researchers are seeking approval for a FDA phase 1 clinical trial for the system and plan to adapt it for monitoring patients for recurrence of tumors and for early-stage diagnosis of ovarian cancer. The system was developed with support from the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program and later tested with support from the Bridge Project. Read more.

Your Summer Reading Is Here

Susan Hockfield's book, The Age of Living Machines has officially hit the bookshelves. Offering a glimpse into a possible future driven by the convergence of biology and engineering, Hockfield describes how researchers at the KI, MIT, and beyond are assembling the "biological parts list" developed from 20th-century revelations in molecular biology and genetics into a stunning array of "living machines" to solve some of the most important—and difficult—challenges of the 21st century. Get a sneak peek into this exciting new book at MIT News or on WGBH's Greater Boston.

Aneuploidy in Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancers with higher levels of aneuploidy—an abnormal number of chromosomes—also come with higher lethality risk for patients, according to a new study from a Bridge Project team co-led by Angelika Amon, KI member and Kathleen and Curtis Marble Professor in Cancer Research, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health faculty member Lorelei Mucci. Using a collection of prostate cancer tumor samples, researchers extrapolated the degree of aneuploidy from each sample's genetic sequencing information and compared it to information about patient outcomes. Patients with a higher degree of aneuploidy were five times more likely to die from the disease. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that aneuploidy could be used to more accurately predict patients' prognosis and to identify patients who might need more aggressive treatment. Read more.

Alpaca Punch

In two studies appearing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the laboratory of Richard Hynes, KI member and Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research, showed how tumors and metastases could be imaged and treated with lightweight antibodies (or, "nanobodies") derived from alpacas. The nanobodies target the extracellular matrix (ECM), which plays important roles in cancer cell survival, invasion, and development, and is more genetically stable, less heterogenous, and easier to access than cancer cells.

The researchers, led by Mazumdar-Shaw International Oncology Fellow Noor Jailkhani, built a nanobody library for ECM proteins that were abundant in the tumor microenvironment, but absent from healthy tissues. In one study, researchers treated mouse cancer models with radioisotope-labled nanobodies. PET/CT imaging revealed clearly visible tumors and metastases. In the companion study, they used the same nanobodies to develop nanobody-based chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells to target solid tumors. Read more.

"And the Academy and awards go to..."

...Paula Hammond, Ed Boyden, and Aviv Regev, for their election to the National Academy of Sciences. Hammond, David H. Koch Professor in Engineering and head of MIT's Department of Chemical Engineering, is being honored for her work in nanomedicine, using biomaterials to enable targeted drug delivery and self-assembled materials systems for electrochemical energy devices. Boyden, Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology, develops new tools for probing, analyzing, and engineering brain circuits. Regev, Professor of Biology, studies the molecular circuitry that governs the function of mammalian cells in health and disease. 

...Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, for the 2019 Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences, awarded by The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation "for discoveries and inventions of materials for drug delivery systems and tissue engineering that have had a transformative impact on human health through chemistry." This prestigious prize in chemistry and related fields was focused this year on advances that have benefited human health. Notably, Langer is the first chemical engineer to receive it.

...Sangeeta Bhatia, the John J. and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, for winning the 2019 Othmer Gold Medal from the Science History Institute for adapting technologies developed in the computer industry for medical innovation and for advocacy for diversity in science and engineering.

...Angela Koehler, the Goldblith Career Development Professor in Applied Biology, for receipt of the NSF CAREER Award. The award will support her work designing and synthesizing new chemical compounds that can change the "master program" that turns genes on and off in a cell. Koehler also won the MIT School of Engineering's 2019 Junior Bose Award for Teaching Excellence.

...Regina Barzilay, the Delta Electronics Professor, for making the "Top 100 AI Leaders in Drug Discovery and Advanced Healthcare" compiled by Deep Knowledge Analytics.

Row, Row, Row Your Bot

Microrobots developed by Bhatia Lab researchers swim through the bloodstream with a payload of nanoparticles in their wake. Inspired by the flagella of bacteria, researchers equipped microbots with helical propellers and placed them in a fluidic model designed to simulate disease-like environments. When an external magnet is applied, the micropropellers rotate, generating flow disruptions that drag nanoparticles along with them. Researchers also conscripted the iron oxide-producing bacteria Magnetospirillum magneticum to generate the wake. Their findings, described in Science Advances, could help overcome the challenge of moving drug-carrying nanoparticles out of blood vessels and into tumors or other target tissues. Read more.

Community Highlights

On screen! Meet Stefani Spranger, the Howard S. and Linda B. Stern Career Development Professor, whose KI laboratory is taking a fresh perspective on cancer immunotherapy.

On stage! Congratulations to Becca Silberman, graduate student in the Amon Lab, whose 1-slide, 3-minute presentation about cancer and chromosome counts earned her the Judges Choice Award at MIT Biology's second annual Science Slam.

On the air! Robert Langer joins Nature's biotechnology podcast, "First Rounders," to talk about his experience teaching high school science and math and the requirements for launching a successful biotech.

Pub Crawl: News from the Research Journals

Bridge Project-supported work by Robert Langer and Massachusetts General Hospital collaborator Rakesh Jain combined a specialized version of an antihypertension drug with immune checkpoint blockers to increase the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapies in mice. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

Researchers from the laboratories of Robert Langer and Giovanni Traverso developed two drug-delivery devices that change shape in the presence of warm water. (Science Translational Medicine)

A research team including American Cancer Society Professor Graham Walker developed a new machine-learning approach that revealed a previously unknown mechanism that helps some antibiotics kill bacteria. (Cell)

Michael Yaffe, David H. Koch Professor of Science, previewed new research building a patient-tumor-specific proteogenomic atlas for colorectal cancer and discussed the potential of this type of approach to precision cancer medicine for developing more effective treatments. (Cell)

The newsletter of the David H. Koch Institute at MIT: providing up-to-date information on next generation cancer solutions coming from MIT and our collaborators across the world.
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