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Creativity Competition Creates New Ideas to Cure Cancer

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Rangos and Finalists
John Rangos Sr. (third from left); His Excellency Vassilis Kaskarelis, Ambassador of Greece (fourth from left); and finalists Brian Ladle, Kevin Cheung, Andrew Sharabi, Cheng Ran "Lisa" Huang and Diane Heiser.

Last Friday, the historic Hurd Hall at Johns Hopkins was filled to capacity with students, faculty and staff waiting to hear five scientists – all in the early part of their careers – describe their novel ideas on how to cure metastatic cancer.  It was part of a competition on creative thinking named for John Rangos Sr., chairman of the Rangos Family Foundation, who funded the awards.  Rangos worked with Johns Hopkins faculty members Donald S. Coffey and Horst Schirmer in the Department of Urology to develop the competition.

Each scientist had 10 minutes to present their idea and answer questions from a panel of Johns Hopkins faculty judges.

Master of creative thinking, Coffey, whose theory on killing cancer by weakening its DNA scaffolding continues to spur innovative research, opened the event, describing it as the “Olympics” of research competitions at Johns Hopkins.

The finalists were awarded the John G. Rangos Medal of Honor in Creative Thinking and the top three winners received cash prizes.

First up to the podium was medical oncology fellow and fifth place winner Kevin Cheung who proposed turning back the clock on cancer cells, reprogramming them into germ cells. He suggested that the reason testicular and other germ cell tumors have high cure rates is because of their undifferentiated state. Just as scientists have created immature pluripotent stem cells from adult cells, Cheung says that the same could be done with cancer cells.  By age reversing resistant cancer cells, he proposes to make them sensitive to conventional chemotherapy.

Third-place winner Diane Heiser, a doctoral candidate in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, proposed that more metastatic cancers can be cured by understanding how cancer cells repair their own DNA. She suggests that metastatic cancer cells are able to survive the severe DNA breaks that occur with DNA damaging agents like chemotherapy by repairing themselves quickly and efficiently. Heiser says that determining the specific proteins which help metastatic cancer cells repair their DNA could reveal new targets for drugs that sensitize cancer cells to chemo or radiation therapy.

Genetics postgraduate student and second-place winner Cheng Ran "Lisa" Huang described cancer as a “fight between two parasites – cancer versus transposons.” She noted that nearly half of the human genome is made up of “jumping” DNA – short sequences of DNA that get inserted into the genome at various points.  Too many transposons can lead to genomic instability and kill the cell.  Huang says that germ cell tumors have the highest level of transposon activity, making them more prone to cell death, and thus, more easily killed by chemotherapy drugs.  There is potential, she says, of using drugs to target proteins that normally suppress transposon activity in most cell types.

Brian Ladle, a pediatric oncology fellow and fourth-place winner, presented his idea that cancer cures rates depend on the level of uniformity between cancer cells.  Low-risk pediatric leukemias are mostly curable, he says, and most of the cells have uniform qualities and certain genetic abnormalities in common.  Cancers that are more difficult to cure are less uniform. Ladle suggests that targeting different populations of cells within cancers could result in fewer relapses and more cures.

The overall prize went to radiation oncology resident Andrew Sharabi for his idea entitled “Specific Immune Response against Testicular Cancer: A Proposed Mechanism for Long Term Remission.” Sharabi suggests that metastatic testicular cancer is largely curable in most patients because immune cells zero in on testicular cancer cells with far more accuracy than other cancers. He proposes that testicular cells are essentially recognized as foreign to the immune system because the testes are protected by the so-called blood-testis barrier, much like the blood-brain barrier. Testicular cancer cells can spread to the rest of the body and may initially go undetected by immune system cells. However, when patients receive chemotherapy, he believes that this causes testicular cancer cells to die, releasing many targets for the immune cells. At that time, the immune system kicks into high gear, generating large numbers of circulating immune cells, whose task is to seek the testicular cancer cells and destroy them. Sharabi believes that after chemotherapy, testicular cancer cells may be essentially recognized as foreign by the immune cells because the blood-testis barrier had, until then, kept testicular cells hidden from the immune system.

Sharabi proposes further investigations of how the immune system responds to testicular cancer cells to identify specific immune system targets common to testicular cancer as well as other types of cancer. The research could lead to development of vaccines that prime the body to defend against and fight cancers.

Just before Sharabi was announced the top winner, John Rangos Sr. called Hopkins a “beacon of light in the measurement of medicine.”  It is here, he said, that we’ll find the next generation of scientific leaders.

Congratulations to the Rangos award finalists and all those who value creativity and innovation.

30 thoughts on “Creativity Competition Creates New Ideas to Cure Cancer”

  1. The cancer cells are reproducing on a molecular level, all the cells have to do is touch them so why wouldn't you use something more protein based to take their attention off the good cells,for example try which ones they reproduce faster with down to the millisecond,than look for the most chemical makeup opposite and take it .what is the chemical make up of a cancer cell? or is it the god particle?you can't just kill it .

  2. i have to many written ideas on how to cure brain cancer

    but i have no one to contact
    can you give me an organisation or someone's email who might be able to help me and listen to my suggestions

  3. So I'm just a premed Biology major and I was studying for bio exam this week. In the chapters I'm studying it is going over the cell cycle. Now I'm not a scientist or doctor of any sorts, I just wanted to throw my thought out there. Has there been any thought or theory where we can fuse a nerve or muscle cell with a cancer cell and force it into the G0 phase of the cell cycle, leaving it non-dividing? I don't know if that is even possible, but I was just curious. Thanks

  4. I have been researching cancer all my life and I found a cure that could work. If I take antibodies DNA and combine them with stem cell's DNA. If their compatible of course, I could create a type of healer and fighter. The stem cell DNA would be the healer since it can take any characteristic of any cell. The antibody DNA would be the fighter since it can fight off harmful organisms. Once in the body these cells can fight off harmful diseases like cancer and can heal the organ or cell(s) that the cancer disease has destroyed. This can also support weak immune systems that are in need of care. I hope you agree with my cure and together we can stop cancer. I am 13 years old. If you don't agree email me at [email address removed by Cancer Matters editor] and I will see your side of the argument. Thanks for reading and I hope this works. If you have other ideas I can help you.

    1. Thankyou Vanessa Wasta. I hope this cure really does work. I'm trying to test my theory. Also when I grow older I'm planning become a scientist and work for you so I can prove my theory. Thank you for your time and I will look forward to talking with you again.

  5. I was really bored one day and started to research cancer, what causes it, what its made out of, etc... I have found myself fascinated with it. So, I decided to think of ways to cure it (crazy, I know) I'm not a doctor, nor have I any experience with medical school. I do have an idea. So I will start by giving an example. I hope I can give others ideas and make a chain. I'm sure that we have all the information we need to cure cancer, we just need to put it together. Okay, everyone knows about the nail polish crackle right? Well, if you think about how it works then you will know that its made out of tiny little magnets (no I didn't look it up). Because in order for it to "crack" some of the nail polish would need to repel, and some would need to attract. So thinking of that made me think, huh... What if there was a "Magnet" for damaged cells/ mutated cells. What i'm thinking is... We need to find a way to attract the mutated cells but repel the normal cells at the same time. Kind of like cleaning a pool out, taking a net, getting the leafs (mutated cells) but leaving the water so more people could come and swim! And using the "net" every now and then to clean it out. We need a net.

  6. My husband just passed away from a five year battle from a astrocytoma brain tumor. I have an idea and want to pass it along. HTH Algae Guard 4. I am an avid gardener and see how algae spreads and grows and comes back time and time again...just like some cancers. I used this product on on of my planters 10 years ago to remove algae. To this day,no algae has grown back! Could it possibly be a connection to stopping the spread of cancers?

    1. The theory could work absolutely but how or what are you going to use because you cant just put HTH Algae Guard 4 in someone. But your plan is amazing. Also very sorry for your loss my great aunt is slowly dying of breast cancer and I want to save her so I made a cure too.

  7. I have had a theory on how cancer can be cured, why not take out all the blood in divisions at the same time injecting new blood in order to work on the cancerous blood separately and try to make like a filtration device. I have the image of it being like lipids process of diffusion going out and filtering or cleaning the cells

      1. The only problem is cancer is not only in the blood. It attaches on to an organ or organism and takes over it. I like your thinking though...

  8. I have been curious about my idea for a cancer cure for awhile now. and I was hoping that someone may be able to help me with that Idea and possibly have information on if it has been tried or even thought about. my idea has to do with rattlesnake venom. because as it goes through the system it kills cells. what I was thinking is if we could directly inject a small amount of that venom into cancerous cells and then shortly after inject with an anti-venom to counteract the effects of the venom. the reason I was wondering this is because I feel like this would be a good treatment not a fix all but rattlesnakes are the most common bite in my opinion and are easily treated. if someone could message back on this it would be greatly appreciated 🙂

      1. AWESOME theory. The only problem is that it may kill off the good cells in our body. Also you can't really inject the venom directly into a cancer cell it has to find it's way to the cell

  9. Annette Kazmierczak

    My idea for cancer, is that I think it is spread like Aids. Saliva, and other bodily fluids are acidic, and I think the acidity triggers pre-cancerous cells or cancer genes. I think it can be spread to other people and passed down through the families genes. If the acidic cell in saliva could be examined and researched to see if this is true, we might have a break through in Cancer research!

  10. Hi, what would happen if every baby as soon as its born had a small amount of chemo, would it act as a prevention for the rest of his/her life???

  11. This maybe stupid, but just an idea. It seems that cancer is looking for something specific in the body, that's why it spreads throughtout the body, infecting everything as it spreads. I think once we figure out what cancer is specifically looking for, maybe we can direct/lure it to one specific part of the body. In a sense isolate it. Then kill it!! Instead of trying to kill it throughtout the whole body or in a general area.

  12. Hello my name is Dakota. So I was wondering what if the cure for cancer doesn't existed anymore. Maybe that the cure has been extinct. So why don't we start looking back a couple of years and start getting DNA from thangs that are just extinct. It's just an idea I didn't think it would hurt to give you my idea

  13. What does insulin actually do to the cell wall to allow Glucose to flow into it. I'm thinking that what ever is happening here that for some reason certain people or carcinogens actuate this performance into cancer cells. Cancer cells are cells that kill good cells right. I'm thinking that there has to be Correlation What does insulin actually do to the cell wall to allow Glucose to flow into it. I'm thinking that what ever is happening here that for some reason certain people or carcinogens actuate this performance into cancer cells. Cancer cells are cells that kill good cells right. I'm thinking that there has to be Correlation here.

  14. I ponder to believe that cure for cancer might lay within the bodies ability or the lack of producing insulin. I know that insulin makes it so that sugar can pass through the cell walls. However the case maybe, the cell has to repair itself. Not being in the medical field my lack of terminology and the way that insulin and sugar mingle inside the body. I think this is a key factor in cells becoming corrupt. I've noticed cancer patient with thick saliva and came to be diagnosed also with diabetes. Thank you for your time.

  15. Why don't you find a different disease that attaches its self to cancer cells and it will bring the immune cells to attack that while destroying the cancer cell

  16. Hi my name is gabe .... I know this may sound dumb, but i have thought of a kind of cure for cancer. Please don't leave right away from reading the comment, I think with some tweaks this may actually work. In science last month we were talking about cancer and I learned many things such as that cancer is a rapid growing cell that overruns other cells. I was learning that today, DNA is in all living things. I also learned all about enzymes and how they replace incorrect DNA. I know that cancer has DNA, and that it rapidly produces and that enzymes fix anything that is incorrect with the nitrogen bases. I was thinking about how the enzymes correct anything that is incorrect, and that they over run it. What if we could take the DNA from the human who has cancer, and takes some of their cells that have not yet been infected with cancer, and take the DNA from those to overrun the DNA in the cell that lets a cell keep living. If you can take the good DNA and leave the mass production in cancer so that when you inject the new cancer cells into the body, they will produce over the bad cancer and replace all cells with a new, pretty DNA that will allow the human to keep living without having the fear of cancer killing the human. I also have some other things to say about this. I know that there will be the bad cancer, but what if we take a faster, safer producing cell to overrun the bad DNA. Please respond with anything that you may have to say, whether this may work or may not..... thank you

    1. Dear Gabe,
      Thank you for commenting and thinking about cancer treatment in a very creative way. [Note: We've removed identifying information from your post.] We urge you to continue your creative thinking and read and learn more about the scientific process. One publication that may be of interest to you is our magazine, Promise and Progress, which is available online and on the iPad in Newsstand. You might enjoy reading about the science of "epigenetics" and how our researchers are developing such epigenetic therapies:
      Best regards,
      Vanessa and the Kimmel Cancer Center Public Affairs Team

  17. Thanks , I have recently been looking for information approximately this subject for
    a while and yours is the best I have found out till now. However, what about the conclusion?
    Are you sure concerning the supply?

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