Pedal the Cause

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Pedal the Cause 2015

Hear from UC San Diego physicians and patients about what Pedal the Cause means to them.

Pedal the Cause: Annual Fundraiser for Cancer Research

Pedal the Cause is an annual cycling fundraiser in which 100 percent of the net proceeds stay in San Diego to benefit cancer research at the three local National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The goal is to fund research that may lead to a cure for cancer.

The third annual event will take place September 18-20, 2015, featuring courses for any riding ability, from 10 miles up to a two-day ride. Participants can register to ride, become a virtual rider, or volunteer. Register at

2014 Funding Results: $1 million Raised for Cancer Research

The 2014 multi-day event raised $1 million and will fund four innovative cancer research projects. These collaborative research projects highlight the potential for groundbreaking science when institutes work together between the three institutions. The funded research projects include developing novel diagnostic/prognostic molecular tools to aide in personalized cancer treatment; the study of breast cancer treatment on long-term health and aging; the study of immunotherapy on patients with melanoma; and development of new tools to rapidly screen drugs that are potential new pancreatic cancer treatment options.

Pilot Projects

Project 1: Highly selective, synthetic, cleavage specificity-based nanobiosensors for tumorigenic and anti-tumorigenic MMPs

Type of cancer: all
Principal investigators:
Alex Strongin, PhD (Sanford-Burnham)
Shu Chien, MD, PhD (Moores Cancer Center)
Peter Yingxiao Wang, PhD (Moores Cancer Center)

There is consensus among professionals that matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), the specialized enzymes produced in cancer, are a promising drug target. Despite the urgent need and significant value for cancer patients, MMP biosensors are currently unavailable. As a result, physicians are blindfolded and incapable of selecting optimal treatment regiments for patients.
To overcome these deficiencies, researchers will now be able to test the unique fully-synthetic nanobiosensors which allow the read-out of the individual MMPs in cells/tissues. As a result of this work, clinicians will be armed with a multitude of novel diagnostic/prognostic molecular tools, which can then be used to rationally design a knowledge-based personalized medicine treatment for the individual patients.

Project 2:  Cytotoxic breast cancer treatment effects on aging

Type of cancer: breast cancer
Principal investigators:
Deborah Kado, MD, MS (Moores Cancer Center)
Jan Karlseder, PhD (Salk)

With a growing aging U.S. population and an expected increase in cancer survivorship projected to affect more than 60 percent of those over the age of 65, there is concern that the effects of cancer treatments on physiologic reserve may carry long-term undesirable health consequences. Whether accelerated aging affects patients diagnosed with breast cancer, the most common type of cancer to affect women, is unknown. As a result of this grant, a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, clinicians, geriatricians and cancer physician specialists will conduct an integrated effort to understand what anti-cancer therapies do, not only with respect to healthy cells, but also to overall health and function. Our ultimate goal is to better understand whether or not chemotherapy may contribute to accelerated aging in breast cancer patients, and if so, identify and target modifiable factors to decrease the risk of not only developing recurrence, but also to maximize long-term healthy function and quality of life in these women as they age.

Project 3: In vivo modeling of anti-tumor responses of human melanoma patients and their responses to checkpoint immunotherapy

Type of cancer: melanoma cancer
Principal investigators:
Linda Bradley, PhD (Sanford-Burnham)
Greg Daniels, MD, PhD (Moores Cancer Center)  

Melanoma skin cancer is a deadly disease that kills many patients after the cancer spreads. Current therapies are not effective, and many patients have very few treatment options after metastasis occurs. Recently, immunotherapies have been developed to augment immune cell function to kill tumors. Even though these immunotherapies are effective in some patients, many others are nonresponsive. There is therefore a pressing need to predict whether a patient will or will not respond to these drugs so that effective personalized treatment options can be offered. Pedal-funded research will allow scientists to test a patient’s immune system against their tumors to determine whether they will have a productive response with clinically available drugs. These studies will be highly significant because if they show promise in melanoma, these tools can be further applied to combat other cancers in humans.

Team Science Award

PROJECT 4:  Therapeutic reprogramming of pancreatic cancer stroma via modulation of p62 and p53

Type of cancer: pancreatic cancer
Principal investigators:
Andrew Lowy, MD (Moores Cancer Center)
Geoff Wahl, PhD (Salk)
Cosimo Commisso, PhD (Sanford-Burnham)
Jorge Moscat, PhD (Sanford-Burnham)

Pancreatic cancer remains the most deadly common cancer in the U.S. with a five-year survival rate of 6 percent. Despite the fact that fewer persons are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer than many other cancers, this high death rate will likely make it the No. 2 cancer killer by 2020. Researchers have identified that the non-cancerous cells present in pancreatic tumors have lost the function of two critical proteins that normally act to suppress cancer development. This grant will allow new tools to be developed by researchers to rapidly screen through a very large number of drugs in order to identify those which can restore the function of these proteins. By identifying such drugs, they can then be tested as part of a new treatment approach to pancreatic cancer.

“There is a misconception that cancer research projects take years – even decades – to make a lasting impact,” said Garth Powis, DPhil, Director of Sanford-Burnham Cancer Center. “Pedal the Cause is fast-tracking that process. After just one year, research funded by Pedal has led to breakthrough findings significant enough to receive additional funding and sponsorship by the NIH.  We are thrilled. It’s Pedal-powered progress.”