48-hour cancer hackathon

April 4, 2017

Programmers, designers and project managers team with cancer patients, researchers, a doctor, nurses and caregivers to crowdsource ideas and better address the nation’s second-leading cause of death

Contact: Zen Vuong at (213) 300-1381 or zvuong@usc.edu

As the hub of three federally funded Cancer Moonshot projects aimed at accelerating cancer research, USC will host a 48-hour hackathon this weekend to develop technology to better manage the nation’s second-leading cause of death.

WHAT: More than 100 USC undergraduate and graduate students will lock themselves in classrooms until they create an app, website or algorithm to tackle cancer, which is responsible for 8.8 million deaths worldwide in 2015.

Approaching the disease from another angle, participants may choose to design a mock-up of a wearable gadget or to sketch some kind of robot. The “internet of things” technology could improve patient quality of life and feed data to physicians, enabling personalized cancer treatment.

Oncologists, nurses, caretakers, cancer patients and convergent science researchers who work across disciplines to fast-track new, life-saving devices and therapeutics will mentor participants and give them an insider’s perspective of a disease that causes nearly 1 in 6 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

The winners will be awarded cash prizes of up to $500 as well as funding of $3,000 per team member to develop their cancer solution in a startup, incubator-like environment: the Bridge Undergraduate Science Intensive Summer Research Program. They will be able to work with top scientists at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience and their product potentially could be incorporated into one of USC’s three Cancer Moonshot projects.


  • Cancer patients leading a yoga class so hackathon participants can understand some of the physical struggles cancer patients face
  • Oncologists, nurses, cancer patients and caregivers providing firsthand stories about cancer treatment and problem areas
  • Demonstration of the apps, websites, algorithm, mock-up gadgets or sketches aimed at improving cancer treatment and patient quality of life


  • Peter Kuhn, founding faculty of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience
  • Jorge Nieva, associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC
  • Thuy Truong, co-organizer of the hackathon, entrepreneur leading the CancerBase mobile app development and lung cancer survivor
  • Kara DeFrias, former director of user-experience design for former Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot team
  • Lori Marx-Rubiner, breast cancer patient and advocate
  • AnneMarie Ciccarella, cancer patient survivor and advocate

Friday, April 7 at 5 p.m. – Sunday, April 9 at 5 p.m.

Friday, April 7

5:30-6:45 p.m. – Opening ceremony detailing cancer treatments; a USC-led, cancer-mapping project driven by social media called CancerBase (a Cancer Moonshot initiative); and patient experiences highlighting weaknesses in current therapies.

7:45-8:15 p.m. – Cancer caregivers share their stories, providing insight about areas in need of innovative solutions. Nurses and caregivers discuss cancer patients’ journeys through the disease.

Saturday, April 8

10:30-11:30 a.m. – Cancer patients lead a yoga class so developers can better understand the physical constraints cancer patients may face.

Noon-3 p.m. – USC-led Cancer Moonshot initiative presentation on using wearable technology, smartphones and the Xbox 360 Kinect to track the health of cancer patients over time. This is an ongoing two-prong clinical study that includes civilians and military personnel.

Sunday, April 9

1:30-3 p.m. – Teams present final projects.

3-3:30 p.m. – Closing ceremony: Peter Kuhn talks about forecasting cancer progression in real time using wearable technology, the “internet of things” or blood draws. Patient data is collected in a secure way, turning a pixelated snapshot of patients’ health into a high-definition movie.

3:45-4:15 p.m. – Finalists present projects.

4:30 p.m. – Winners announced.

WHERE: USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience Bridge Institute

PARKING: RSVP with Zen Vuong at (213) 300-1381 or zvuong@usc.edu

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