In the 1980s it took 10 years for a scientist to study one gene. Today, scientists can study 20,000 genes in a week. That change emerged during Sameek Roychowdhury’s medical training and sparked his interest in genomics and its potential for treating cancer based on the gene changes in a patient’s tumor.
“Currently, it costs $5,000 to $10,000 to sequence all of a patient’s genes,” Roychowdhury says. “It’s not cheap but it’s feasible, and Pelotonia has helped us make genomics-based cancer medicine happen here at Ohio State.”
Sameek Roychowdhury, MD, PhD, is a physician-scientist and medical oncologist who specializes in cancer genomics, genomics-driven cancer clinical trials, and precision cancer medicine. This year he will take to his bike as he has for the past three years to ride in Pelotonia to support Ohio State cancer research.
“Pelotonia is an amazing event that grew in just a few years to become the largest bike ride in the nation for cancer research,” he says.
Roychowdhury pedals the full 180-mile route both for patients who might benefit from his research and for personal reasons. “My mother-in-law was a breast cancer survivor, and my father was a prostate cancer survivor,” he says.
He organized a peloton that includes much of his lab. Last year, the team raised $10,000, with $5,000 coming from T-shirt sales alone. This year, the T-shirts are $20, and 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to Pelotonia. The message they carry plays off the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry: “Two Goals: Beat Michigan, Beat Cancer.”
Roychowdhury notes that a portion of the dollars raised by Pelotonia supports high-risk, high-reward research. “That’s one way Pelotonia is making a difference,” he says. “High-risk, high-reward research can more rapidly advance progress against cancer.”
Pelotonia funds helped recruit Roychowdhury and other researchers who specialize in precision cancer medicine, which relies heavily on genome sequencing and sophisticated equipment. “Pelotonia funding has been crucial in bringing that technology to Ohio State and in making genomics available to patients,” he says.
Using genomic sequencing to characterize a patient’s tumor enables physician-researchers at the OSUCCC — James to choose a clinical trial that is appropriate for that particular patient based on the molecular changes in his or her tumor. “It enables us to get the most effective treatment to the patient while also facilitating drug development,” he says.
There are many ways to participate in Pelotonia and work toward the goal of ending cancer, Roychowdhury notes. “Anyone can contribute as a rider, a virtual rider, a volunteer or a supporter.
“One of the most exciting things about the event is the support of people in Ohio. You’re riding through the countryside; the houses are hundreds of yards apart; it’s the middle of the summer and hot – and you see people sitting in lawn chairs beside the road, offering lemonade, cookies and cheering us on because we are all on the ride together.
“The kind of effort that people have put into this goal of ending cancer is magical.”