Video Challenge 2022
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2022 Video Challenge for High School Students

Molecular Mechanisms
of Cancer



Cancer is caused by cells that have lost their normal controls on growth, and in the worst cases, have developed ways to move throughout the body. Since all of our cells must work together to create a healthy body, cell growth and the cell division cycle are regulated by complex molecular systems. The components of these systems – the molecules and proteins – are arranged into pathways where sequential positive and negative feedback events cause the cell cycle to proceed or stop at the appropriate times. In cancer cells, this feedback system is disrupted and they grow uncontrollably, forming a tumor.

These disruptions are often caused by mutations in genes that encode signaling proteins. These mutated genes then produce mutated proteins that are structurally altered and function improperly within the signaling pathway. Many of the genes that carry these carcinogenic mutations can be divided into 2 groups: tumor suppressor genes and proto-oncogenes.

Tumor suppressor genes encode proteins that regulate and control growth. These genes watch for problems and shut down growth and initiate repairs when they find them. For example, some tumor suppressors respond to DNA damage. They act as transcription factors stimulating production of proteins that help in DNA repair as well proteins that arrest division cycle until DNA is repaired or induce cell death if repair is not possible. If there is a mutation at a critical location in a tumor suppressor gene, the expressed protein has an altered 3D structure which renders it unable to react to issues with DNA. As a consequence, the cells with DNA damage can proliferate.

Proto-oncogenes, on the other hand, help control the processes that are essential for cell division. These proteins are integral parts of specific pathways and rely on positive signals from other proteins and molecules to become activated and to pass the signal forward. A mutated proto-oncogene is referred to as oncogene. Oncogenes produce proteins with structural changes that allow them to be active independent from feedback from other proteins, so they continually tell the cell that it's okay to grow and divide.

2022 Challenge

In this video challenge we would like you to explore two specific molecular feedback systems that have an important role in the cell division cycle: the p53/p21 pathway and the EGFR/Ras pathway. Mutations in the TP53 gene (encoding the p53 tumor suppressor protein) are identified in 50% of all cancers, while mutations in the RAS gene (encoding the Ras protein) are identified in 30% of all cancers.

Your task is to create a 2 minute-long video that tells a coherent story explaining the science concepts from one of the topics below and touches on the public health aspects of cancer such as screening, prevention, and awareness.

Failure of cell-cycle arrest via p21 protein due to mutations in the TP53 tumor suppressor gene.

Your video should communicate the following scientific concepts:

  1. What is the function of the p53 protein? How can it modulate the cell cycle if necessary?
  2. How can a mutation in the TP53 gene affect the function of the p53 protein?
  3. How does mutation of the p53 protein impact the function of p21, leading to cancer?

Continuous cell proliferation due to mutations in the RAS oncogene in the EGFR/Ras pathway

Your video should communicate the following scientific concepts:

  1. What is the function of the Ras protein in the cell growth pathway?
  2. How can a mutation in the RAS gene affect the function of Ras protein and cause disruption in the signaling pathway, leading to cancer?

Refer to the Learn section for topic overview, links to further resources, and examples of topic-relevant PDB structures.

The target audience

Imagine you are teaching the content to another high school student, whose overall knowledge of biology is similar to yours, but has not studied the molecular pathways leading to cell division.

A PDF flyer describing this challenge is available for download and distribution.

Video Requirements

A qualifying entry should:

  • Tell a 2-minute-long, coherent story that incorporates molecular and public health components
  • Have a title that represents the video's story
  • Include a picture or animation of a protein from the Protein Data Bank (PDB) archive that is relevant to the topic and is used in a meaningful way. Example structures with visualization resources are included in the Learn section in Table 1 and Table 2
  • Included narration must be at natural speed, not artificially sped up
  • The entry musn’t contain any copyrighted materials
  • The end credits can run in addition to the 2 minutes allotted for storytelling. Credits should include the references to all research materials, citations of the PDB structures shown, and image and sound credits
  • The video should end with the PDB-101 branding slide

Refer to the Rules section for more details.

Who can participate?

All students enrolled in any high school in the United States and equivalent level home-schooled students are eligible to participate in groups comprising from 1 to 4 students. Each participant has to submit the Permission Form. Entries lacking signed permission forms will be disqualified. Refer to the Participate and Rules sections for more details.

Important Dates

Submission Opens January 18, 2022
Submission Closes April 25, 2022 at 11:59 pm PST
Judging and Voting May 3 - May 9, 2022
Results Award winners will be announced at and on May 17, 2022.


All qualifying entries will be eligible to win one or more of the following:

Judge's Award

A panel of expert judges will review the videos. All qualified entries will be judged on the following criteria (see the detailed description of each criterion):

  • Story Telling 20%
  • Quality of Science Communication 30%
  • Quality of Public Health Message 10%
  • Originality and Creativity 20%
  • Quality of Production 10%
  • Proper Accreditation 10%
Viewer's Choice Award

As voted by the viewers.

The winning entries will be recognized on,, and in an upcoming RCSB PDB Newsletter.