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Center for Cancer Research receives $6 million to study tumor cell 'microenvironment'

Research into the "microenvironment" of tumor cells is the focus of a $6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to MIT's Center for Cancer Research.

"It has been clear for a long time that tumor cells do not proliferate and progress in isolation--rather, they are dependent on support from their surroundings, which include extracellular matrix and various supporting (or stromal) cells," said Richard Hynes, the principal investigator for the grant and the Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research in the Department of Biology.

Similarly, tumor cells can also be controlled by elements in their environment, including a variety of cell types of the immune system.

"Interest in these 'microenvironmental' influences on tumor growth and progression has been growing in recent years, and technologies to study these interactions between tumor cells and their surroundings have advanced," said Hynes, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

Co-investigators on the grant are Tyler Jacks, a professor of biology and director of the CCR; Robert Weinberg, a professor of biology and member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and Dr. Ralph Weissleder of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Projects through the grant, which will be awarded over five years, will involve collaborations among these investigators and some additional external collaborators. There will also be interactions with other groups of investigators in NCI's Tumor Microenvironment Network.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 6, 2006 (download PDF).

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