May 29, 2014

Pedal the Cause funds local ground-breaking cancer research with inaugural grant awards

Salk News

Pedal the Cause funds local ground-breaking cancer research with inaugural grant awards

LA JOLLA—Pedal the Cause, the region’s only multiday cycling fundraiser where 100 percent of the net proceeds goes to support cancer research in San Diego, today announced five research projects funded by the inaugural 2013 event. The Pedal the Cause grants offer enough support for initial experiments, which will ideally lead to grants from federal sources and to large-scale studies.

More than $400,000 was awarded for collaborative, translational cancer research, including five projects at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. These collaborative research projects highlight the potential for groundbreaking science when institutes work together. The funded research projects include targeting pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest recalcitrant cancers; developing inhibitors for a protein pathway that drives a high percentage of cancer metastasis; and searching for a novel hereditary breast cancer susceptibility gene.

“We founded Pedal to help fund transformative research with the potential for rapid impact on the way cancer is treated. Each of our five grantees will explore novel approaches to fighting cancer that could make a big difference for patients here in San Diego and around the world,” said Pedal the Cause executive director Patrick Connor.

Pedal the Cause beneficiaries UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, and the Salk Institute have formed the San Diego National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers Council, or C3. The ultimate mission of the C3 is to leverage distinct and combined resources and talents of the member institutes to accelerate, understand, and create innovative approaches for the treatment and prevention of cancer.

“Each of these grants will fund leading-edge research that has the potential to significantly change the way we fight different cancers by developing new therapies and rapidly translating them from the research bench to the bedside, helping us achieve our goal of making personalized cancer care a reality in San Diego. These high-impact projects would not be funded without Pedal the Cause,” said Scott M. Lippman, MD, director of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

“These types of pioneering research initiatives are extremely important. The exciting collaborations they represent can only happen here in San Diego with the caliber of researchers and clinicians we have working together through the Cancer Centers Council. With Pedal the Cause’s support, and the collective resources the C3 provides, we will be able to translate discoveries from these initiatives into innovative treatments faster than ever before,” said Garth Powis, DPhil director of Sanford-Burnham’s NCI-designated Cancer Center and team captain of the Institute’s Pedal the Cause team.

“Working with our colleagues around San Diego is offering unprecedented opportunity for new and exciting discoveries. Every Pedal the Cause rider should know that they are an integral part of the research, through the funding that they are generating through this event,” said Tony Hunter, PhD, a professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory and director of Salk Institute Cancer Center.

The five grant recipients were reviewed and approved by an esteemed panel of doctors and scientists on the C3 Grant Review and Approval Committee, chaired by Dr. Hunter. The criteria on which they were evaluated was thorough and rigorous, with an emphasis on collaborative, translational research. Each grant recipient has the potential to make a huge difference in cancer treatment.

Finding New Hereditary Breast Cancer Markers
Only 10 percent of breast cancer cases are linked to BRCA. Lisa Madlensky, PhD, (Moores Cancer Center) and Geoffrey Wahl, PhD, (Salk) are working with a family that is strongly suspected of carrying a hereditary breast cancer gene, even though all members are BRCA-negative. The study aims to find a new susceptibility gene for which families with unexplained hereditary breast cancer can be tested. This information could help determine which family members have the gene and therefore need to be monitored carefully or undertake breast cancer prevention measures, and which family members did not inherit the gene and are considered to be at average risk.

Stopping Cancer Growth
The process of secretion by which cells export proteins was not previously known to play an important role in cancer. However, a newly discovered pathway that functions in secretion, named for its key protein GOLPH3, drives a high fraction of cancers that together account for the majority of cancer deaths, making an unprecedented link between secretion and cancer. Seth Field, MD, PhD, (UC San Diego) and Michael Jackson, PhD, (Sanford-Burnham) will collaborate on research to take advantage of this unique pathway as a target for a new class of cancer treatments. They will identify inhibitors of the GOLPH3 pathway to study their potential as novel cancer drugs.

Reprogramming Pancreatic Cancer’s Hard Shell
Every day, a San Diegan will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, yet only one in 20 will survive for five years after this diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth deadliest cancer, yet very little progress has been made in fighting the disease over the last 50 years. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat in part because the cancer grows encased in a thick tissue protective layer called the “activated stroma.” Andrew Lowy, MD, (Moores Cancer Center) and Geoffrey Wahl, PhD, (Salk) will study a novel way to treat this recalcitrant cancer by focusing on smart-drugs that can reprogram the stroma to allow other smart-drugs to attack the cancer inside.

Halting Breast Cancer’s Spread
The spread of cancer cells from the primary tumor to distant organs, termed metastasis, is the leading cause of cancer-related death. Even the removal of early-diagnosed primary breast cancer cannot guarantee prevention of metastatic recurrence many years later. Michael Karin, PhD, (Moores Cancer Center) and Geoffrey Wahl, PhD, (Salk) will research ways of halting breast cancer metastasis by inhibiting Ubc13 and p38, enzymes involved in controlling metastatic spread..

Discovering Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor Weaknesses
Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) is a cancer that arises from nerve cells that control the movement of muscles in the intestine. Many GISTs have a high level of a protein called KIT, which led to the use of a drug called imatinib that could attack KIT. This became the first targeted, personalized treatment of solid tumors. However, it did not completely cure the disease, because some GISTs don’t have the KIT target or develop a drug-resistant form of KIT. Jason Sicklick, MD, (Moores Cancer Center) and Robert Weschler-Reya, PhD, (Sanford-Burnham) will use advanced screening technology to discover new drugs that can target GISTs resistant to current therapies.

Pedal the Cause 2014
The second annual event will take place September 20 and 21, featuring courses for any riding ability, from 10-miles, up to a two-day ride between La Jolla and Temecula. Participants can register to ride, become a virtual rider, or volunteer. Event registration is now open to the public at:

A unique cycling experience, Pedal the Cause offers riders and supporters a world-class experience, raising support and awareness for the incredible work being done to fight cancer in San Diego. From the training support to the finish-line celebration, Pedal the Cause courses offer an unforgettable riding experience through San Diego County.

For more information about courses, free training, volunteer opportunities, registering, or donating, please visit

About UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center:
UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center is home to nearly 350 medical and radiation oncologists, cancer surgeons, and researchers. It is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country, a rare honor distinguishing exceptionally high achievement in research, clinical care, education and community outreach and partnerships. For more information, visit

About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute:
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Sanford-Burnham takes a collaborative approach to medical research with major programs in cancer, neurodegeneration and stem cells, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is recognized for its National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and expertise in drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a nonprofit, independent institute that employs 1,200 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), Calif., and Orlando (Lake Nona), Fla. For more information, visit us at

About Pedal the Cause:
Founded in 2012, Pedal The Cause-San Diego is a California non-profit public benefit corporation established to fund, plan and manage an annual cycling fundraiser in which 100% of the net proceeds stay in San Diego to benefit cancer research at the three National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers. It is our hope that research funded by Pedal The Cause will ultimately lead to a cure for cancer, and propel San Diego to the forefront of cancer cures and care. For more information, please visit Find us on Facebook at and on Twitter, @pedalSD.

About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is one of the world’s preeminent basic research institutions, where internationally renowned faculty probe fundamental life science questions in a unique, collaborative, and creative environment. Focused both on discovery and on mentoring future generations of researchers, Salk scientists make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cancer, aging, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and infectious diseases by studying neuroscience, genetics, cell and plant biology, and related disciplines.

Faculty achievements have been recognized with numerous honors, including Nobel Prizes and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, MD, the Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark.

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