Facebook’s Carolyn Everson to join thousands in cities across the U.S. next month as they cycle to help raise money for underfunded, orphan cancers that plague 50 percent of all cancer patients in this country
When it comes to cancer, there’s an endless need for more research and money in order to find effective treatments and, hopefully, one day, cures for even the most rare forms of the disease.
Enter Cycle for Survival. Co-founded in 2007 by Jennifer Goodman Linn and her husband, Dave, Cycle for Survival is the national, indoor relay-style team cycling event that has raised more than $9 million in support of lifesaving research on rare cancers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In the past five years, Cycle has funded 25 clinical trials and research studies. All funds raised from the events go directly to Memorial Sloan-Kettering for research on “orphan” cancers – the more rare form of cancers that plague an astonishing 50 percent of all people living with cancer in the United States today.
“Orphan cancers are those diseases that typically are not given the research opportunities and funding, as opposed to major cancers [such as that of the lung, breast, colon and prostate] in the United States,” Dr. Gary Schwartz – the Chief of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Melanoma and Sarcoma Service – told us. Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs died last year from such a cancer; he suffered from a rare form of pancreatic cancer. “The Cycle for Survival provides an opportunity to raise research dollars directly for these orphan diseases and all the money raised from those efforts goes here,” Dr. Schwartz said.
Founder Jennifer Linn died last year at the age of 40 from sarcoma, one of those rare cancers. Her fearless fight against the disease and the energy she put into making Cycle for Survival take off in order to benefit cancer research inspired many across the globe.
On Saturday, Feb. 4, Cycle events will take place in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Long Island. On Saturday, Feb. 11, people will bike in Chicago and New York City, and on Sunday, Feb. 12, Cycle participants will hop on bikes in Washington, D.C. and New York City.
“Cycle is so important to me to support because it carries on the legacy that Jennifer started to raise awareness and funding to treat orphan cancers,” Carolyn told genConnect. “Jennifer was a close friend who I knew for over a decade and her life was way too short on this planet. I do believe her impact will be bigger than she ever imagined. It is the least I can do to make sure her legacy continues.”
Giuliana Rancic, the E! News co-anchor and creator of FabFitFun.com, recently went public with her own diagnosis of breast cancer at the young age of 36, supported last year’s Chicago Cycle event.
“Cycle for Survival is a great event and I encourage everyone to take part in it,” Giuliana told genConnect. “You get to get in shape, have fun and support a great cause. What more could you ask for?!”
Dr. Schwartz said research into orphan cancers is important not only because they make up 50 percent of all cancer cases in the U.S., but also because they are finding connections between orphan and the more well-known cancers – which could aid in finding more effective treatments. Once researchers better understand the molecular biology of cancerous tumors, drugs can then be created to specifically target those cancerous pathways.
“There has been a transformation – a shift, so to speak – in understanding the role of developing drugs in these orphan diseases,” Dr. Schwartz explained.
Thanks to funds raised by Cycle for Survival, once those helpful discoveries are made, they can quickly move from the lab to the clinic to test them out.
“This is our safety net,” Dr. Schwartz said of the fundraising event. “This is our basic foundation we can use. With this research money, we can develop these therapies and hope, in the meantime, the pharmaceutical industries will engage us in the development of treatment for these orphan diseases.”
Dr. Schwartz himself will be cycling this year; he rides every year. It’s an event that brings doctors, patients and their families, and others together for a great cause.
“I do it for my patients. I do it for their future. I do it for the future of oncology,” he said, hoping that one day such events won’t be needed, as orphan research will receive adequate enough funds to ensure all patients receive the treatments they need to battle the disease. ”I’d like to one day say ‘this is our last event.’”
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