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Excelsior riders fuel triple negative breast cancer research

Each year, Excelsior riders who raised $20,000 or more fund one unique project approved by the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) for its high potential. Here’s a look at the most recent SAC grant designation. 

Fueling Triple Negative Breast Cancer Research

Education Site - Dr. Azrak OICO Program 2.4.21-41
Dr. Mukherjee Lab Photos November 8, 2022-27 (4)

At Roswell Park, our researchers are constantly asking the next question and working toward new discoveries. Many times, those groundbreaking findings begin with a simple question or a small data set. Major national funding for cancer research doesn’t come into play until a scientist can prove they have a solid foundation and are already well on their way to something big.

Our solution is the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). Roswell Park researchers submit unique project proposals to understand something deeper about their dedicated cancer focus. Through a competitive and rigorous process, the projects with the highest potential and most established groundwork are selected for funding.

These SAC grants are made possible by the generosity of road warriors and their donors, without whom, many of these projects could not get off the ground and make their marks on cancer as we know it. For every $1 donated to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation and invested into research initiatives, researchers go on to earn an additional $23 in external grant funding, further fueling their lifesaving work. In other words, after donor funding has allowed their work to flourish, they’re empowered to seek and win larger grants to make an even bigger impact and follow the thread of innovation they’re chasing.

“But the true magnitude of that impact is much greater than the $23,” said Mukund Seshadri, DDS, PhD, Co-Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee, Associate Director of Cancer Research Training and Education Coordination and Chair of the Department of Oral Oncology. “It has allowed people to pursue ideas, it has allowed us to develop and move things forward. Maybe therapies that would have still been in the lab somewhere are actually now in clinical trials that we’re running at Roswell Park. An approach to mitigate toxicity in a cancer patient might not have been pursued at all if not for this funding.”

It has allowed people to pursue ideas, it has allowed us to develop and move things forward. Maybe therapies that would have still been in the lab somewhere are actually now in clinical trials that we're running at Roswell Park. An approach to mitigate toxicity in a cancer patient might not have been pursued at all if not for this funding.”

The following research initiative was specifically funded by the generosity of the 2022 Empire State Ride Excelsior riders who raised $20,000 or more and those who donated to their fundraising efforts.

Immuno-Metabolic Regulation in Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Subhamoy Dasgupta, PhD, and Scott Abrams, PhD

Breast cancer detection and treatment continues to improve, but in too many cases for patients with triple negative breast cancer, the cancer returns in an aggressive, metastatic form where therapeutic options are severely limited. The cancer cells in these situations have developed strategies to adapt and evade the immune system, enabling them to become more aggressive.

One way the cancer grows is by increasing a specific metabolic enzyme that can act as a driver of this variant. When there is more of this enzyme, there is poorer survival. In contrast, metastasis to the lungs and lymph nodes are significantly less when the enzyme is reduced.

Drs. Dasgupta and Abrams, along with their team, hope to uncover the intricacies of how this enzyme drives the growth of triple negative breast cancer by suppressing immunity so we can ultimately learn how to stop it with new therapeutic combinations.

Four reasons you should camp at ESR

Camp life is a core piece of the Empire State Ride (ESR) adventure. From incredible programming to mouthwatering meals and weeklong bonding, you won’t want to miss this uniquely ESR experience.

“It’s part of the camaraderie that makes the ESR so special,” said Steve Marsco-chair of ESR and longtime rider.

We know there are many factors to consider when committing to this seven-day journey. That’s why Steve, along with a few other riders and ESR staff, are here to help set your mind at ease about camping.

1. Mission-based programming:

We strongly encourage riders to take part in evening programming. At each campsite, you’ll learn how you’re making a difference through engaging, personal and impactful programming. Some evenings you’ll hear from patients and doctors about the fundraising dollars at work. Other nights you may listen to riders about what the mission means to them — or even share your own story! Each evening is different, and altogether you’ll gain a greater understanding of the ESR mission.

“My first Empire State ride was 2016. I was a mountain bike person, and I said I’m going to do this ride as a way to honor my mother. I thought it was going to be a one-and-done experience, but it was the evening programming that told me that Empire State Ride isn’t just a cycling event. It’s a much bigger idea and bigger concept,” said Steve

Empire State Ride founder, Terry Bourgeois, talking about the mission to end cancer.
A cancer survivor hugging another Empire State Ride road warrior during evening programming.
Two Trees Catering serving meals at Empire State Ride.
This photo shows Empire State Ride road warriors clapping during evening programming. The evening programming is centered around the mission to end cancer.

2. Meals:

Riding 500+ miles across New York State takes passion, dedication and a commitment to getting the work done. So does feeding the 300+ riders and staff members each July. Enter father-daughter duo Adam and Johanna Morrison of Two Trees Catering.

With the support of ESR staff and a catering team of seven others, Adam and Johanna make sure road warriors are well-fed and ready to tackle 60 to 100 miles each day.

Riders and staff members alike gather family-style for breakfast and dinner each day, with a focus on clean, whole foods and a few staples that riders need like pasta and protein.

“Nutrition is very, very important to our riders, and the food is great. There’s lots of it,” said Tom Johnston, ESR Operations Manager.

3. Convenience:

ESR is camping made easy! Comfy Campers, along with our volunteers and behind-the-scenes team, work hard to make sure when you arrive at camp after a long day on the road, you’re as comfortable as possible. Tents, air mattresses, camp chairs and clean towels are set up and taken down daily by the staff at Comfy Campers.

Each camp has a rider reception and services hub. Restrooms or portable restrooms and a traveling shower truck are available on site. Riders also have access to a bike repair team, electronics charging stations and so much more!

“After the riders leave at around 7 a.m., we pack up everything. Comfy Campers packs up 300 tents individually. They roll them up, put them in their trailers, drive an hour to the next place and unload them all,” said ESR Production Manager Katie Menke.
“Camping makes it easier because the shuttling back and forth is arduous. You’re doing it twice at every campsite. When you’re camping, you can roll out of bed, get dressed, go have breakfast, wheel your bag over the truck and you’re good to go,” said Steve.
An Empire State Ride Road Warrior carrying a mattress at the campground.
An Empire State Ride Road Warrior at the camp ground.

4. Experience

ESR is an experience unlike any other, and that’s largely due to the camping environment and culture. But don’t take our word for it! This is what other road warriors have to say about camping:

“Everyone is so friendly and helpful — the energy! I got to meet some incredible people and talk to them about their why and share my why. There are some people who are retired. There are some professionals. There are some young people, so it’s pretty incredible being exposed to all of that diversity.” – Allison Joseph

“At the end of the day, it’s not about the ride. It’s about the funds raised. And it’s about hanging out at camp when you get there. Trust me, the beer tastes really good after a day of riding.” – Richard Noll

“I did my first Empire State Ride, hopped on the bus and off I went. I’d never camped. I was a Holiday Inn girl, but I learned to camp, and I’ve learned a lot of things about myself that I never thought that I would do or could do.” – Maria Thor

Two Empire State Ride road warriors standing during evening programming. One has a shirt that reads, "To end cancer."
This photo shows the tents lined up at Empire State Ride.
Road warriors at Empire State Ride gathering at camp.

Still have questions?

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Don’t hesitate to reach out to our Empire State Ride team at empirestateride@roswellpark.org or via phone at (716) 845-3179. Our fundraising experts, Katie and Tori, can answer any questions you might have.

We can’t wait to take on this adventure with you!