Pink Pumpkin Pedal-off gift spurs breast cancer research at UF Health
The gift represents $15,000 raised through CSCRB’s Pink Pumpkin Pedal-off charity bicycle ride and $1,150 resulting from sales of the organization’s copyrighted Pink Ribbon Cycling Jersey.
“This gift is very meaningful to us because it represents community involvement in support of breast cancer research taking place right here at UF that honors the memory of the women among our friends and families who have been lost to breast cancer and celebrates those who are breast cancer survivors,” said Barb Wills, a member of CSCRB.
Wills and fellow CSCRB member Barb Thomas have been deeply affected by the disease — at the age of 7, Wills lost her mother to breast cancer, and Thomas is a breast cancer survivor. These experiences led the women, both of whom are avid cyclists, and other members of the group to establish the Pink Pumpkin Pedal-off charity bicycle ride in 2012. The first-time event raised $15,000 in support of UF Health triple-negative breast cancer research. In addition, sales of the organization’s Pink Ribbon Cycling Jersey, which Thomas designed following her breast cancer experience, added $1,150 to the total gift in support of UF Health research of treatment-resistant breast cancer. The gift is made in advance of this year’s Pink Pumpkin Pedal-off charity bicycle ride, scheduled to take place Oct. 12.
“Private gifts like this to our cancer research funds are so important to scientific discovery, because they facilitate our ability to identify and support new and promising scientific investigations that haven’t developed far enough along to be competitive for the larger, federal grant awards,” said Paul Okunieff, M.D., UF Health Cancer Center director, chair of radiation oncology in the UF College of Medicine and the Marshall E. Rinker Sr. Foundation and David B. and Leighan R. Rinker chair. “Seed grants can literally lay the scientific foundation needed for an investigator’s grant application to even be considered for an NIH/NCI award. Susan Frost, one of our breast cancer researchers, is a great example of this. Dr. Frost recently leveraged her research, which was supported in part by a $15,000 seed grant award from the cancer center’s treatment-resistant breast cancer research fund, into a $178,000 grant from the NCI to study the molecular biology of triple negative breast cancer.”
Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of breast cancer that does not respond to established therapies as well as other breast cancers. Most breast cancer treatments target tumor estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, known as HER2. These are not present in triple-negative breast cancer tumors — hence “triple-negative” in the name — and breast cancer chemo and hormone therapies successfully targeting those receptors do not have the same benefit for women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. As many as 25 percent of all breast cancer cases are triple-negative, and it is a particularly deadly form of breast cancer with a high rate of recurrence, yet it is one of the least studied forms of breast cancer.
“The big ‘Aha!’ moment for me was when we met with Dr. Frost, and asked her how much money she thought it would take to significantly move her research forward,” Wills said. “When she answered $100,000, I was blown away because I thought she’d say $2- or $3 million.
“And we knew we could do that, we could raise $100,000 over time to support researchers as they explore new ideas with the potential to lead to really big, important discoveries that could change the lives of women with breast cancer.”