Bridge over the Charles River

The Bridge Project, a landmark cancer research initiative, pairs Koch Institute, Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—The David H. Koch Institute for IntegrativeCancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and theDana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) have launched an extensivecollaboration aimed at uniting oncology and bioengineering. Termed the BridgeProject, the initiative aims to raise and deploy $50 million over the nextthree to five years into additional research teams focused on potentiallytransformative initiatives.
According to the partners, the Bridge Project is the mostextensive collaboration of its kind between Boston's two National CancerInstitute (NCI)-designated cancer centers.
"New kinds of interdisciplinary collaboration are absolutelyessential in order to rapidly translate research discoveries into clinicalstrategies that will benefit patients in the near-term," says Tyler Jacks,director of the Koch Institute.
DF/HCC, composed of many of Boston's prominent researchinstitutes and hospitals, has previously brought together thousands ofresearchers working in varied areas of cancer research. Their newest partner,Koch, offers expertise in technical solutions for unmet needs in cancertreatment. Their focus includes innovations that will allow for more precisetreatment of some of the most clinically challenging cancers.
Funding for the Bridge Project's research grants comes inlarge part from philanthropists Arthur Gelb and Thomas Peterson and twononprofit cancer research organizations, the Lustgarten Foundation and theNational Brain Tumor Society. Together with the bioengineering expertise ofKoch and the clinical knowledge of the DF/HCC's oncologists, the partners hopeto extend their research efforts by jointly funding innovative researchprograms from both organizations.
Four research teams, selected by an external advisory boardand composed of both DF/HCC and Koch Institute researchers, have been chosenfor the initial phase of the Bridge Project. These research endeavors includeglioblastoma analysis, improved drug delivery systems for pancreatic cancer,pancreatic chemotherapy and novel immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer.
Both of these forms of cancer present as obstinatemalignancies for which there are few or no treatments available. Glioblastomais a malignant form of brain cancer with 10,000 new cases diagnosed each year.The five-year survival rate is less than 3 percent. There is currently no cure.While pancreatic cancer can be cured in its earliest stages, it often goesundetected until the disease is too advanced for treatment. The five-yearsurvival rate is less than 6 percent, and it is the fourth-leading cause ofcancer death in the United States.
"We have made tremendous advances in many cancers in recentdecades, but pancreatic cancer and glioblastoma remain exceedingly difficult totreat," says David Livingston, deputy director of DF/HCC. "From a clinicalperspective, we are eager to gain a more sophisticated understanding of theunderlying biology that's driving these diseases, and to work with leadingscientists and engineers to design fresh approaches for how we mightintervene."
According to the Koch Institute's website, future projectsmay include "new tools to deliver drugs to recalcitrant cancer tissues, newlyengineered methods to rapidly define patient-specific molecular vulnerabilitiesand new embedded sensors that can rapidly assess if drugs being used areworking." The Bridge Project may extend their target areas to melanoma and ovariancancer over the next five years.
Ultimately, the Bridge Project hopes to cure cancer withingenuity.
"We believe that success against cancer will come if weapply the same creativity and innovation to the research enterprise that we doto the research itself," says Jacks. "New kinds of interdisciplinarycollaboration are absolutely essential in order to rapidly translate researchdiscoveries into clinical strategies that will benefit patients in the nearterm."

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