Pedal the Cause

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Pedal the Cause 2016

Hear from UC San Diego Health 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, Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP), the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Rady Children’s Hospital–San Diego. The goal is to fund research that may lead to a cure for cancer.

The fourth annual event will take place November 12-13, 2016, 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

2015 Funding Results: $1.3 million Raised for Cancer Research

The 2015 multi-day event raised $1.3 million and is funding seven 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 testing new therapeutic combinations to combat lung cancer, studying activation of a molecule that stimulates colorectal cancer growth, platinum drug resistance in ovarian tumors, the investigation between the link of nightly fasting with cancer, targeting stem cell signals in cancer, and vaccine response in immune suppressed patients.

Grant Summaries

Research Focus: Targeting KRAS mutant lung cancer with biphosphonated/statins and rapamycin analogs

Type of cancer: lung
Principal investigators:
Lyudmila Bazhenova, MD (Moores Cancer Center)
Inder Verma, PhD (Salk)

Lung cancer is the most common human malignancy and leads to about one-third of all cancer-related deaths. There are three major genetic mutations found in lung cancers: EGFR, EML4-ALK and KRAS. The latter, KRAS, is more common in Caucasians, males and smokers, and does not currently have good therapeutic options. Previous studies have shown that select drugs prescribed for bone resorption, when used in combination with rapamycin (an immunosuppressant commonly used to prevent the body from rejecting organ and bone marrow transplants), could successfully prevent tumor growth and prolong survival. PEDAL15 grant funding will allow scientists to test the drug combination in metastatic lung tumors with KRAS mutations, as well as decipher what makes a tumor more sensitive to this drug combination. Additionally, it has been found that certain drugs designed to lower blood cholesterol (statins) could also inhibit protein modification. This grant will make it possible for scientists to test combinations of statins with rapamycin. Scientists hope to develop a viable combination therapy to combat lung cancers with KRAS mutations and demonstrate the power of immediate translation of results into the clinic.

Research Focus: The GNAS-PKA onco-signaling network in colorectal malignancies

Type of cancer: colorectal
Principal investigators:
Silvio Gutkind, PhD (Moores Cancer Center)
Susan Taylor, PhD (Moores Cancer Center)
Tony Hunter, PhD (Salk)

Every year, more than 135,000 Americans - and 1.35 million people worldwide - are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. With 50,000 deaths each year, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. New approaches are clearly needed to explain the underlying biology of colorectal cancer, which will help the development of new and more effective options to prevent and treat this highly prevalent human malignancy. Aspirin and multiple over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are effective in preventing colorectal cancer, supporting that chronic inflammation contributes to the development of this cancer. A molecule known as Protein Kinase A (PKA) is often stimulated by inflammatory mediators in the normal intestine and colorectal tumors. Through PEDAL15 funding, scientists will be able to study what causes the unrestrained activation of PKA in colorectal cancer and how PKA then stimulates cancer growth. It is believed that these studies will increase our understanding of colorectal cancer initiation and progression, will help identify patients at risk of developing this malignancy, and will reveal new therapies to prevent and treat this disease.

Research Focus: Epigenetic basis of platinum drug-resistance in ovarian cancer

Type of cancer: ovarian
Principal investigators:
Olivier Harismendy, PhD (Moores Cancer Center)
Stephen Howell, MD (Moores Cancer Center)
Joseph Ecker, PhD (Salk)

The majority of patients treated for ovarian cancer receive platinum-based chemotherapy, but 85 percent of patients who initially responded will eventually relapse with a recurrent tumor that is resistant to treatment. Platinum drug resistance is a serious clinical problem affecting thousands of patients every year. With the modern tools of precision medicine and genomics, scientists now have a chance to better understand how tumor cells adapt to and escape the treatment. PEDAL15 funding will allow scientists to apply an experimental system developed to obtain platinum sensitive and resistant cells that have an identical DNA sequence. Scientists will evaluate why tumors can rapidly adapt to treatment and become resistant. This research is likely to predict why certain ovarian tumors are more likely to become resistant and how soon. It may also lead to the identification of therapies to prevent or delay the onset of platinum resistance.

Research Focus: KRAS addiction and protein biomarkers of response to anti-KRAS therapy in NSCLC patient-derived xenografts

Type of cancer: lung
Hatim Husain, MD (Moores Cancer Center)
Garth Powis, DPhil (SBP)

In approximately 25 percent of lung cancer cases, the gene KRAS may be mutated. Therapies for patients who have a KRAS mutation are not currently approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. This challenge remains a largely unmet need among lung cancer patients. Every year an estimated 39,000 people will die of this molecular form of the disease. In this PEDAL-funded project, scientists will study proteins that are expressed in these tumors and seek to identify additional markers that may be used to determine who will respond to novel KRAS-directed therapies. Additionally, the funding will also facilitate the study of new drug therapies developed to target the KRAS protein complex and test its efficacy in KRAS-mutated and pathway dependent cancer cells. This groundbreaking research could serve the basis of a future clinical trial to evaluate a new anti-KRAS drug for patients with KRAS mutations and pathway dependency.

Research Focus: Mechanisms linking prolonged nightly fasting with cancer risk

Type of cancer: all cancers
Principal investigators:
Ruth Patterson, PhD (Moores Cancer Center)
Dorothy Sears, PhD (Moores Cancer Center)
Satchidananda Panda, PhD (Salk)

Research Focus: Targeting stem cell signals in cancer development & progression

Type of cancer: all cancers
Principal investigators:
Tannishtha Reya, PhD (Moores Cancer Center)
Michael Jackson, PhD (SBP)

To identify new therapeutic targets for cancer, researchers have focused on stem cell programs that are reactivated in cancer. It has been demonstrated that the stem cell signal Musashi (Msi) is highly upregulated during leukemia development and that its blockage can prevent tumor growth and progression. Data suggests that targeting Msi may provide a new strategy for therapy. To move this work forward to the clinic, PEDAL15 grant funding will be used to develop inhibitors of Msi and test their effectiveness against cancer growth. Outcomes from this study have the potential to identify a new class of therapeutics for cancers that are largely unresponsive to current therapies.

Research Focus: Detecting correlates of vaccine responses in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients

Type of cancer: all cancers
Principal investigators:
Randy Taplitz, PhD (Moores Cancer Center)
Shane Crotty, PhD (La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology)

Vaccines decrease the risk of infection by working with the body's natural defenses to develop immunity or protection against disease. Patients with cancer and other diseases affecting the immune system may lose immunity to those diseases against which they have previously been vaccinated and also may have reduced ability to develop immunity to a new vaccination. Hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) is a procedure that replaces defective or damaged cells in patients whose normal blood cells have been affected by cancer. PEDAL15 funds will allow scientists to measure vaccine-specific immunity before and after vaccination with the pneumococcal and Tdap vaccines, which are given at standardized times in the year after HCT. Ultimately, this effort is expected to lead to better vaccination strategies which will in turn lead to decreased infections due to vaccine-preventable diseases in this vulnerable patient population, as well as contribute to our understanding of immune recovery after HCT.