'If you live long enough, you'll get cancer' --  but elephants may hold the cure

Cancer challengeJulie BortQualtrics presents the ‘$5 for the fight’ cancer challenge.

Online survey company Qualtrics, the billion-dollar startup out of Provo, Utah, was founded thanks to cancer.

Dr. Scott Smith, a well-known a professor of marketing at BYU’s school of business, was diagnosed with throat cancer and given only about one month to live.

His son Ryan Smith, one of his five children, quit school and moved back home to spend time with his dad. Instead of rebuilding a car, they decided to work on a project that turned Smith’s research on surveys into a product. This product eventually became Qualtrics.

What happened next was almost a miracle. As part of a second opinion, they went to Huntsman Center for cancer research at the University of Utah. They discovered the source of the cancer was a tonsil, not the throat, and put Dr. Smith into an experimental treatment. He recovered.

Now Qualtrics is trying to start a bucket-like challenge called “$5 for the fight.” It has kicked off the challenge by donating $1 million to the Huntsman Center. And they are asking everyone to donate $5 to cancer treatment and research for the Huntsman Center, and to invite five of your friends to do the same.

One of the research projects there is an unusual project by Dr. Joshua Schiffman in which he’s using elephants to come up with a cancer prevention treatment.

Schiffman told attendees of Qualtrics annual customer conference, taking place this week in Salt Lake City, that there’s a gene called P53 known as the “guardian of genome. It prevents cancer,” he said. It turns out that in “half of all tumours, this P53 gene is missing. Normally we need 2 copies to keep us safe. As we get older P53 stops functioning. If you live long enough, you’ll get cancer.”

So he looked at elephants, who live as long as 75 years. “They should be getting cancer. They don’t. Elephants have up to 40 copies of P53. What we’re doing now at Huntsman Cancer Institute, is taking hose extra copies elephants have and giving them to people, so no one in this room ever gets cancer.”

Cancer currently affects 1 in 3 people, which means that every one of us knows someone that has battled cancer.

In other words, this illness affects everyone.

NOW WATCH: A teen built a KFC chicken vending machine made entirely of Lego blocks — here’s how it works

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.