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News Release

Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160 | Fax (410) 516-5251

April 10, 2001
CONTACT: Michael Purdy

Local Student Presents Research at
Undergraduate Award Ceremony

A Johns Hopkins University senior from Potomac, Md., has conducted experiments demonstrating the promise of a possible new cancer vaccine. Research by Morris Ling has contributed to scientific papers published in the peer-reviewed journals Human Gene Therapy and Cancer Research, and two more papers that are now in preparation.

Ling, a senior psychology major, has been working since his freshman summer (summer 1999) in the lab of T.-C. Wu, an associate professor in pathology and oncology at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Wu's lab belongs to a group of collaborating labs that are trying to develop ways to use the human immune system to fight cancers.

Morris Ling worked with T.-C. Wu, background, in trying to develop methods to use the human immune system to fight cancers.

Ling was among 50 Hopkins students selected to receive the provost's undergraduate award for research and excellence in the 2000-2001 academic year. Results of Ling's research, titled "RNA Replicons as Vaccines for HPV- Associated Cancer," were presented at an awards ceremony on April 5 at Hopkins. Ling graduated from Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Md.

Cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus, are a primary focus of the cancer vaccine research in Wu's lab.

Wu's lab had closely studied the difference between cells infected with HPV that "just want to replicate and cause warts and lesions" and HPV-infected cells that had progressed to cancer. They identified two proteins, E6 and E7, that are prevalent in malignant cells but scarce in non- cancerous cells.

Ling studied the possibility of using a new approach to prime the immune system to attack tumor cells containing high levels of E7. He attached the E7 antigen to an RNA replicon vaccine, which consists only of RNA.

In addition, Ling is involved in the development of naked DNA vaccines. The DNA vaccine was specially designed to target cells in skin known as dendritic cells. These cells play a key role in alerting the immune system to the presence of invaders and arming it to attack such invaders.

The vaccine was specially designed to target cells in skin known as dendritic cells. These cells play a key role in alerting the immune system to the presence of invaders and arming it to attack such invaders.

Ling showed that the vaccine primed antibodies, helper T cells, and killer T cells in the immune system to attack E7-expressing tumor cells, and early test results in a mouse cancer model were promising.

After graduation, Ling plans to take a year off to work in Wu's lab before entering medical school.

The Johns Hopkins University is recognized as the country's first graduate research university, and has been in recent years the leader among the nation's research universities in winning federal research and development grants.

The opportunity to be involved in important research is one of the distinguishing characteristics of an undergraduate education at Johns Hopkins. About 80 percent of the university's undergraduates engage in some form of independent research during their four years, most often alongside top researchers in their fields.

The Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards is one of these research opportunities, open to students in each of the university's four schools with full- time undergraduates: the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering, the Peabody Conservatory and the School of Nursing. Since 1993, about 40 students each year have been awarded up to $2,500 to propose and conduct original research, some results of which have been published in professional journals. The awards, begun by then provost Joseph Cooper and funded through a donation from the Hodson Trust, are an important part of the university's commitment to research.

Return to Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards news release.

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