Elazer Edelman - Harvard Cancer Center announce launch of 'Bridge Project' to attack most-lethal forms of cancer

Institutions, research teams, non-profit organizations join forces in novel approaches targeting pancreatic cancer, glioblastoma.

March 6, 2012

The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) announced today that they have funded several research teams in a joint collaboration aimed at solving the most intractable challenges in cancer.

The Bridge Project — an unprecedented clinical research collaboration between MIT and DF/HCC — has awarded grants to four interdisciplinary teams made up of biologists, bioengineers and clinical researchers representing both cancer centers. Each joint team is focused on improving the prognosis facing patients affected by two of the most-lethal cancers today: pancreatic cancer and a form of brain cancer, glioblastoma.

The Bridge Project grants represent the most extensive collaboration of its kind between Boston’s two National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers. In addition to individual philanthropists Arthur Gelb and Thomas Peterson, key support for the initiative comes from two leading innovative non-profit cancer research organizations: The Lustgarten Foundation, the nation’s largest private foundation dedicated solely to funding pancreatic cancer research, and the National Brain Tumor Society.

“We have made tremendous advances in many cancers in recent decades, but pancreatic cancer and glioblastoma remain exceedingly difficult to treat,” said David Livingston, deputy director of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. “From a clinical perspective, we are eager to gain a more sophisticated understanding of the underlying biology that’s driving these diseases, and to work with leading scientists and engineers to design fresh approaches for how we might intervene.”

“We believe that success against cancer will come if we apply the same creativity and innovation to the research enterprise that we do to the research itself,” said Tyler Jacks, director of the Koch Institute. “New kinds of interdisciplinary collaboration are absolutely essential in order to rapidly translate research discoveries into clinical strategies that will benefit patients in the near-term. We are very excited to work with Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, with the help of visionary philanthropists and support of two leading research organizations, to make this program a reality.”

The initial grant recipients were selected by an external advisory team that provided rigorous, expert review of more than a dozen proposals submitted by faculty from both institutions for consideration in this round of funding. The external advisers selected those projects that they believe have the greatest potential of generating high-impact clinical outcomes in the future.

The Bridge Project aims to raise and deploy $50 million over the next three to five years into additional research teams focused on potentially transformative initiatives.

The teams receiving grant funding in this first round include:

  • Keith L. Ligon (Dana-Farber), J. Christopher Love (Koch Institute at MIT), Matthew Meyerson (Dana-Farber and Broad Institute) working on single-cell functional, genomic and transcriptonic analysis in glioblastoma;
  • Rakesh K. Jain (Mass General Hospital) and Robert S. Langer (Koch Institute at MIT) working on angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) as a novel approach to improve drug delivery in the treatment of pancreatic cancer;
  • Jeffrey W. Clark (MGH), Robert S. Langer (Koch Institute at MIT), Elazer Edelman (Harvard:MIT HST Program) working on the development of a pancreatobiliary chemotherapy eluting stent for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas;
  • Hidde Ploegh (Whitehead and Koch Institutes), Kai W. Wucherpfennig (Dana-Farber), and J. Christopher Love (Koch Institute at MIT) working on novel immunotherapies against pancreatic cancer.