Defining Vulnerabilities of Minimal Residual Disease

David Weinstock and Scott Manalis want to convert cancer remissions into cures. Most of the 20,000 people who die of lymphoma every year in the U.S. die of relapsed cancer — their disease was sent into remission by treatment but eventually came back, due to undetectably tiny amounts of cancer cells left behind after their therapies, also known as minimal residual disease. Luckily, technology to detect these few straggler cancer cells is improving, but researchers still don’t understand why these cells are able to escape the treatments that kill most of the other tumor cells. Weinstock and Manalis aim to tackle the difficult problem of minimal residual disease in lymphoma by developing new technologies to study these rare cells in animal models and biopsies from patient volunteers taken before treatment and after the patients go into remission. Finding the molecular differences in the cancer cells before and after remission will allow the researchers to identify why these malignant cells are uniquely dangerous, and ultimately how to better prevent the lymphomas from coming back.

Affiliated Investigators

David Weinstock, M.D.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dr. David Weinstock is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, Associate Physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Associate Member of the Broad Institute, and Affiliated Faculty at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. His laboratory focuses on basic and translational discovery in lymphomas and leukemias using advanced technologies to interrogate and propagate primary specimens. He has developed new risk models for patients with lymphoma, defined a link between Down Syndrome and leukemia, and established an open-source repository of patient-derived xenografts. Dr. Weinstock directs a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Specialized Center of Research that oversees basic discovery and clinical trials for lymphoma across 11 major academic centers.

Scott Manalis, Ph.D.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Scott Manalis, Ph.D., is the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Biological Engineering and a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. He has been a faculty member at Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1999 and prior to that he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in physics and applied physics at University of California at Santa Barbara and Stanford, respectively. His lab develops microfluidic technologies to measure biophysical properties of single cells (e.g. mass and growth rate) and uses them to characterize therapeutic sensitivity in a broad range of tumor types.