Pelotonia is a grassroots bike tour with one goal: to end cancer
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Where The Money Goes

Funds raised by Pelotonia riders help Ohio State researchers

100%… Of All Funds Raised…

by Pelotonia Riders, Virtual Riders and Volunteers directly supports cancer research at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center- James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James). Pelotonia dollars support four key areas at Ohio State’s cancer program; The Pelotonia Fellowship Program, Idea Grants, Tools for Discovery and Bringing the Best to Ohio State.

The Pelotonia Fellowship Program

The Pelotonia Fellowship Program trains promising and accomplished undergraduate, graduate, medical and postdoctoral students from any discipline at Ohio State who have the potential to become independent cancer researchers. The Fellowship Program started in 2010 and to date has awarded 440 student fellowships through an annual allocation of 2 million in Pelotonia revenue for this program. Scholarship recipients so far include:

  • 129 undergraduates
  • 77 graduates
  • 4 medical students
  • 61 postdoctoral fellows
  • 21 international scholars

Most recently, from October 2013- October 2014, the program awarded 65 fellowships to students at all levels of scholarship for conducting cancer research in the labs of faculty mentors. Recipients included 36 undergraduates, 18 graduates and 11 postdoctoral fellows and six international scholars.  Visit the Pelotonia Fellowship Program for more information.

Idea Grants

It is unlikely that a cure for cancer will come from one scientist. Instead, it will be through team science that we will get new answers and treatments. With this in mind, the Pelotonia Research Award Program provided two-year “idea” grants that enable creative teams of scientists at Ohio State to embark on research that could lead to discoveries resulting in better treatments and prevention strategies.

In the past four years, 67 OSUCCC – James research teams have received Pelotonia Idea Grants. Awardees are selected through a peer-review process conducted by both internal and external scientists not competing for grants in the current funding year. Since the program’s inception, $6.6 million in funding has been awarded. A total of $650,000 was awarded in the most recent round of Idea Grants to six teams of faculty researchers.

“Every dollar raised by Pelotonia plays an instrumental role in funding these pivotal pilot grants, which explore novel treatments that target the molecules and markers of each person’s cancer,” says OSUCCC Director and James CEO Michael A. Caligiuri, MD. “There is no routine cancer research, and none of these projects would be possible without the thousands of Pelotonia riders, virtual riders and donors who are bringing us closer each day to creating a cancer-free world.”

The most recent Idea Grant titles, awardees and project summaries are:

Identifying and Developing New Immunogents for Cancer Diagnosis and Therapy (Michael Tweedle, PhD, and Charles Hitchcock, MD, PhD)

This study will develop molecular tools for cancer diagnosis and therapy by targeting nucleoli, a marker abundantly present on the surface of cancer cells but not on normal cells. This research team recently identified an agent that blocks nucleolin, and now the team will investigate the therapeutic potential of this agent on several types of human tumors. The compound also will be attached to tracers that will help clinicians and surgeons identify the tumors, plan the surgical procedure and assess the complete removal of cancer cells from patients, which will improve their overall survival.

Proteasomal Pathway Regulates PTEN Protein Degradation and Promotes Carcinogenesis (Sarmilla Majumder, PhD, and Micael Ostrowski, PhD)

Certain genes, known as tumor-suppressor genes, protect people from cancer and promote response to cancer therapy. PTEN is a tumor-suppressor gene, but it is lost due to the genetic changes that occur in many cancers. Recent studies by this research team suggest that, in some breast cancer patients, PTEN is lost because the PTEN protein is unstable. The researchers have identified several factors that promote PTEN-protein breakdown; now they plan to determine how these factors regulate PTEN protein stability and regulate breast cancer initiation and progression. Restoring PTEN protein by blocking these negative regulators could be a novel therapy for many cancers.

A Mass- Spectrometry Approach to Mapping Histone Modification Crosstalk (Michael Freitas, PhD, and Mark Parthun, PhD)

Histones are proteins that help package DNA in cells. Specific histone modifications can influence the modification of other histones, generating complex networks of histone-modification crosstalk. This research team will combine a molecular genetics and a mass-spectrometry approach to produce the most comprehensive view of histone cross-interactions to date.

Develop IL – 27 Based Combinational Immunotherapy of Cancer (Xue-Feng Bai, MD, PhD)

After decades of research, cancer immunotherapy has emerged as a major weapon in the war against cancer. The significant increase in response rates following treatment with anti-CTLA-4 antibodies and anti-PD1 antibodies shows the power of combining immune therapy agents. However, severe autoimmune side effects limit the use of this combination. Additional combinations are sought. This research team will develop therapeutics that have the potential to boost the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapies, including antibody-based agents and cancer vaccines. The researchers hypothesize that combining IL-27 with anti-PD1 antibodies or cancer vaccines can enhance the effectiveness of those immune therapies while avoiding serious autoimmune side effects. This Idea Grant may lead to new drug candidates that work synergistically with anti-PD1 agents or cancer vaccines. In addition, it will test a new concept that IL-27 can uncouple the link between autoimmunity and cancer immunity.

Ceragenin-based Therapy for Multiple Myeloma (Don Benson, MD, PhD)

Myeloma is an incurable form of blood cancer affecting more than 75,000 patients in the United States. Novel treatments that extend patient survival in part through the body’s immune system have provided new opportunities to harness the immune system to fight cancer. Recent discoveries suggest that tiny proteins called antimicrobial peptides in the immune system might also have anticancer properties. This Idea Grant will allow researchers to learn whether artificial peptides that are based on the naturally occurring immune proteins might offer an entirely new myeloma treatment.

Defining the Role of Autophagy in Anoikis Resistance and in Peritoneal Carcinomatosis/Sarcomatosis (James Chen, MD, and John Hays, MD, PhD)

Many kinds of cancer (e.g., ovarian, pancreatic, sarcoma) can spread throughout the abdomen in a pattern known as carcinomatosis or sarcomatosis. This type of spread indicates that the cancer is highly aggressive, but the mechanisms involved in these processes are poorly understood. These researchers have developed a laboratory model that mimics carcinomatosis or sarcomatosis and have shown that, across multiple cancers, a process called autophagy, which can cause cells to self-destruct, is dysregulated. Their initial experiments showed that, by altering the mechanism of autophagy, they can lower the number of cancer cells that survive. This Idea Grant will enable the researchers to study more drugs and more cancers to see if they can repeat these effects.

Tools for Discovery

Pelotonia funds have supported an Ohio State and state of Ohio investment in an upgrade and expansion of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) capabilities on Ohio State’s main campus. In 2014 several state-of-the-art instruments for measurements in both solution and solids were purchased and outfitted with a broad range of capabilities, including high-field superconducting magnets, cryogenically cooled measurement probes to optimize sensitivity, and sample robots for high-throughput applications. These capabilities will enable cancer researchers at Ohio State to characterize at atomic detail the structure and conformational dynamics of onco-proteins, their binding to small drugs and drug candidates, and the signature of changes in metabolic profiles in cancer during disease and treatment.

Bringing the Best to Ohio State

Over the past six years, funds raised by Pelotonia have helped Ohio State recruit and retain some of the brightest minds in cancer research. Among those recruited in 2014 are three renowned senior researchers who will have an immediate impact:

Roman Skoracki, MD, FRCSC, FACS, is a professor in the College of Medicine, Department of Plastic Surgery, where he directs the Oncology Section. Skoracki came to Ohio State from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. His areas of clinical expertise include lymphedema surgery, reconstructive microsurgery of the head, neck and breast, sarcoma reconstruction and abdominal wall reconstruction – all focused on improving patient outcomes physically and psychologically. He has strong collaborative research interests.

James Rocco, MD, PhD, is a professor in the College of Medicine, Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Cancer Surgery, where he directs the Division of Head and Neck Oncology. Rocco was recruited from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts General Hospital. As a researcher, he has translated basic science investigations on mechanisms of cell death after therapy into clinical practice by identifying novel biomarkers that predict survival in patients with head and neck cancer.

Michelle Naughton, PhD, MPH, is a professor in the College of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. Naughton, who also is a member of the Cancer Control Program at the OSUCCC – James, came to Ohio State from Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the impact of cancer and its treatments on the health-related quality of life and daily functioning of patients and long-term survivors.

To learn more about the OSUCCC-James please visit