Koehler Lab Booth for the Cambridge Science Festival

Archive from April 2015

The past few decades have seen tremendous strides in our understanding of cancer biology, but the translation of that knowledge into actionable information for cancer therapy is slow in several areas. In the Koehler lab, we seek to bridge this gap in the area of oncogenic transcription factors. These proteins that initiate transcriptional programs are often mutated or unregulated in cancer settings, but have been deemed “undruggable” by conventional drug discovery methods. Practically, our focus is on the discovery of small molecule probes for modulating transcription factors implicated in cancer using our small molecule microarray (SMM) technology.

During the recent KI Open House as part of the Cambridge Science Festival, we had the opportunity to illustrate this complex idea for young visitors.  At our lab’s interactive exhibit, we drew inspiration from Marvel Comics and developed a display that juxtaposed oncogenic transcription factors in two different states: as “good citizen” proteins, under normal conditions, and as “hulked-out” proteins in their cancer-causing state. Our booth featured an interactive macro-model of our SMM technology, which mimicked our probe-discovery process as a ring toss game.  We asked students how to calm the hulk down, and challenged them to find a molecule that “fit” with our pipe cleaner protein.  With more than 300 attending the event throughout the day, we are confident that at least a few more “small molecule detectives” are on the case!

 Our outreach poster presenting cancer drivers as "hulked out" genes for children in the Cambridge community.

Our outreach poster presenting cancer drivers as "hulked out" genes for children in the Cambridge community.

 Becky, Dylan, Shelby, and Andrew with a "ring-toss" small molecule microarray.

Becky, Dylan, Shelby, and Andrew with a "ring-toss" small molecule microarray.