MIT symposium marks 25 years of fighting cancer


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Cancer research pioneers David Baltimore and Robert A. Weinberg are among the speakers at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Cancer Research (CCR) symposium on Friday, June 18, in Kresge Auditorium.

The symposium, which commemorates the CCR's 25 years of basic cancer research, will look at innovative approaches for understanding and combating cancer. The CCR has helped revolutionize the way scientists think about the origins of human cancer and paved the way for powerful new technologies in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The symposium will highlight notable CCR achievements such as Weinberg's discovery of the first human oncogene (cancer-causing gene) and Nobel Prize-winning research on RNA splicing. Weinberg, David K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research and American Cancer Society Professor of Biology at the Department of Biology at MIT, will speak on "Genes That Make Human Cancer Cells." Weinberg also is a founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

Baltimore, president of the California Institute of Technology, former MIT professor and founding member of the MIT cancer center, will speak on "Old Directions and New Ones."

The Center for Cancer Research at MIT opened in 1974. It draws its faculty from MIT's world-renown biology department, which conducts research in cellular, developmental and molecular biology, biochemistry and structural biology, classical and molecular genetics, immunology, microbiology, neurobiology, virology and plant biology.

Three Nobel prizes (to Baltimore, Phillip A. Sharp, head of the biology department at MIT, and Susumu Tonegawa, professor of biology at MIT) have been awarded to MIT cancer center faculty during its 25 years. Five of the 12 current CCR core faculty are members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

"Truly novel advances in cancer research come from a deeper understanding of the molecular and cellular bases of cancer," said Richard O. Hynes, director of the CCR. "With the help of some truly great people, both faculty and trainees, the MIT Center for Cancer Research has been at the forefront of this endeavor, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

"It has been an exciting 25 years, and the coming years promise to be even more productive," he said.

Returning CCR alumni speaking at the symposium are:

  • ������Fred Alt, Children's Hospital, Boston. After receiving his Ph.D. from Stanford, Alt was a postdoctoral fellow with David Baltimore in the late 1970s. In his own laboratories, first at Columbia University and currently at Children's Hospital in Boston, Alt has played a leading role in elucidating the molecular basis of the immune response. He is a Howard Hughes Investigator and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • ������David Baltimore, president, California Institute of Technology, was a founding member of the MIT Cancer Center and later the founding director of the Whitehead Institute at MIT. During his career, he has made seminal contributions in many areas, including studies of polio virus, tumor viruses, gene regulation during development of the immune system and in inflammation and in cancer cell biology. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of reverse transcriptase.
  • Susan Berget, Baylor College of Medicine, obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota and was a postdoctoral fellow with Phillip Sharp in the MIT Cancer Center in the late 1970s. During that time, she was involved in the discovery of RNA splicing for which Sharp later received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Berget was the first author on the landmark 1977 paper and she has continued her studies on the mechanism of RNA splicing and processing in her own laboratory.
  • Webster Cavenee, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, San Diego, was a member of the first group of postdoctoral fellows in the MIT Cancer Center, working on somatic cell genetics in Bud Baker's laboratory. In his own laboratory at the Ludwig Institute, first in Montreal and later in San Diego, Cavenee has worked on chromosomal abnormalities in cancer and on the progression of glial and cervical tumors. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Ihor Lemischka, Princeton University, was a graduate student in Phillip Sharp's laboratory and a postdoctoral fellow in Richard Mulligan's laboratory, both at the MIT Cancer Center. In his own laboratory at Princeton, he has concentrated on molecular analyses of the development of hematopoietic stem cells, the cells from which leukemias arise. He has defined novel receptors that control these processes.
  • Lorraine Pillus, University of California, San Diego, was a graduate student with Frank Solomon in the MIT Cancer Center. After postdoctoral work at University of California, Berkeley, Pillus established her own laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, and currently in San Diego, where she works on the mechanisms of silencing of gene expression. The mechanisms she has discovered are involved in the regulation of cell proliferation and their human homologues can be altered in various cancers.
  • ������Martin Schwartz, Scripps Research Institute, obtained his Ph.D. from Stanford and was then a postdoctoral fellow with CCR director Richard Hynes in the MIT Cancer Center, working on cell adhesion. In his own laboratory, first at Harvard Medical School and currently at Scripps, he has been a leader in deciphering the signal transduction pathways emanating from cell adhesion receptors. These signals control normal cell growth and are altered to produce anchorage independence in tumor cells.
  • ������Nancy Speck, Dartmouth Medical School, was a postdoctoral fellow both with Baltimore and then with MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins in the MIT Cancer Center. In the Hopkins laboratory, she worked on the regulation of RNA tumor viruses and she has continued along that line of research in her own laboratory. The regulators of retroviruses on which she works are known targets for alterations in human leukemias.
  • ������Inder Verma, Salk Institute, was one of the original postdoctoral fellows when the Baltimore lab moved into the new Cancer Center at MIT. In his own laboratory at the Salk Institute, Verma concentrates on the functions of proto-oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes and on gene therapy. One focus is on the transcription factor, NFkB, discovered in the Baltimore lab. Verma is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • ������Robert Weinberg, Whitehead Institute, MIT, obtained his Ph.D. from MIT, working with Sheldon Penman on RNA processing. After postdoctoral work, Weinberg returned to MIT as one of the founder members of the CCR. His discovery of the first human tumor oncogene, ras, was a seminal advance in the molecular understanding of cancer, as was his later isolation of the first human tumor suppressor gene, Rb. He continues to analyze the molecular basis of cancer cell dysregulation. Weinberg is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of many awards, including the National Medal of Science.
  • ������Owen Witte, University of California, Los Angeles, was a postdoctoral fellow with Baltimore, working on the abl oncogene. In his own laboratory, he has made major contributions to our understanding of the development of the immune system and the molecular bases for development of leukemias. Witte is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

For more information, call (617) 253-6400 or check the web at http://web.mit.edu/ccrhq/ccr25/.


Topics: Health sciences and technology, Biology

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