‘Shark Tank’ Retreat Grants $100,000 for Novel Breast Cancer Research

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On June 7, multidisciplinary researchers from across UC campuses came together at the Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center to develop new collaborations and research ideas in a unique competition.

The goal: come up with an idea to wow their peers and win $100,000 to complete the cancer-based project.

In a format resembling the hit television show “Shark Tank,” researchers came together at 8 a.m. to hear introductory presentations from the 10 centers and programs, and then split into groups to begin brainstorming ideas to initiate a project that they hoped would impact the prevention, detection or treatment of cancer.

“Every group is an all-star cast,” said host William Barrett, MD, director of the UC Cancer Institute, chair of the department of radiation oncology and medical director for UC Health’s Barrett Center, in opening remarks. “Today really isn’t about the $100,000—it’s about new collaborations and meeting people who can enhance the way we do our work to impact the field of cancer.”

Eleven teams—named for the 1985 and 1987 Daniel Drake Medal Award recipients—were formed based on a drawing that was done previously by Barrett. He took names from three buckets: clinicians, College of Medicine researchers and scientists from university colleges to create the teams that were made up of seven to nine members.

After only a few hours, each team presented its idea during five-minute timed presentations, and the entire group of participants voted.

The Josef Warkany, MD, Team, co-chaired by Radiation Oncologist Kris Huang, MD, PhD, and UC and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center researcher Lisa Privette Vinnedge, PhD, came out on top for their proposal which focuses on the use of radiotherapy and nanoparticles to diagnose and treat breast cancer and shorten therapy.

“Our proposal involves adapting nanoparticles to be able to label where cancers are in the body and eventually use those same particles to not only see the tumor but also treat it at the same time so that we can identify the tumor and know that the medication is getting there,” Privette Vinnedge says.

The team now has one month to formalize their proposal and an additional year to bring it to fruition.

“It was the ultimate in collaboration, bringing together enormously talented people who are working day and night to fight cancer,” says Barrett, who revealed at the event that the prize money came from the late Carl Linder, Jr., who asked Barrett to use the money for collaboration and education. Lindner died in 2011.

“This was an exciting event, and I feel that we helped to generate internal and external enthusiasm for the cancer program and its research strengths. We are just getting started and it is going to be a great ride.”

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