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Cancer researchers brief media

Dozens of journalists from national and international publications attended a special media briefing Thursday, March 6, in which several MIT faculty members discussed research they will pursue at the new Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

"Cancer remains a devastating problem and a major health issue, and we at MIT want to do something about it," Tyler Jacks, director of the Koch Institute, said in his opening remarks.

The daylong event at the Broad Institute featured discussions of topics such as why some cancer drugs fail, nanotechnology, cellular pathways in cancer cells and the immune system's response to cancer.

Robert Weinberg, professor of biology, explained current theories of how cancer spreads through the body, a process known as metastasis. Researchers believe that metastasis, which causes 90 percent of cancer deaths, occurs when cancer cells regain the embryonic ability to move through the body.

Sangeeta Bhatia, associate professor of health sciences and technology and electrical engineering and computer science, described efforts to build nanoscale devices that could detect, monitor and treat cancer.

Institute Professor Robert Langer discussed his laboratory's work on nanodevices, and Institute Professor Phillip Sharp described new advances in RNA interference, which could one day be used to silence genes that cause cancer.

Other presenters were Frank Gertler, the Ross Scholar Professor of Biology; Michael Hemann, the Latham Family Career Development Assistant Professor of Biology; David Housman, the Ludwig Professor of Biology; Angela Belcher, the Germeshausen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering; Michael Cima, the Sumitomo Electric Industries Professor of Engineering; Nancy Hopkins, the Amgen, Inc. Professor of Biology; Jacqueline Lees, professor of biology and associate director of the Koch Institute; Forest White, the Mitsui Career Development Assistant Professor of Biological Engineering; Michael Yaffe, associate professor biology and biological engineering; Scott Manalis, associate professor of biological and mechanical engineering; Paula Hammond, the Bayer Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering; Darrell Irvine, the Eugene Bell Career Development Professor in Tissue Engineering; and Dane Wittrup, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering and associate director of the Koch Institute.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 12, 2008 (download PDF).

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