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Cyclist Lance Armstrong Visits NIH
By Jennifer Michalowski
On the Front Page...
Cancer survivor and world renowned bicyclist Lance Armstrong told the NIH community that he owed his life and his five Tour de France victories to people like them the doctors, researchers and clinical trial participants who made the treatment for his own testicular cancer possible.
Without research, Armstrong told a capacity crowd at Masur Auditorium on Oct. 17, there never would have been "a kid from Texas on a bike. Quite frankly, I wouldn't be here today. And I certainly wouldn't have clipped into a pedal and started a bike race ever again."
Armstrong visited NIH as part of the Tour of Hope, a week-long bicycle relay across the United States to raise awareness about cancer research and the importance of clinical trials. He and two of the 26 riders on the tour were welcomed to NIH by NCI director Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach and Clinical Center director Dr. John Gallin.
"We come together in tribute to a survivor who represents so many, many others across this country and across this world that have faced the challenge of cancer," said von Eschenbach. "Lance's incredible victories in the Tour de France have been an example to us of what is possible, what is within our grasp. There is no question in my mind that together we will achieve that ultimate victory a world in which no one suffers and no ones dies as a result of cancer."
Von Eschenbach lauded all the Tour of Hope cyclists, including Peter Scacheri and Milana Dolezal, who took the stage with Armstrong and spoke about their reasons for participating in the relay.
Scacheri and Dolezal both are cancer researchers and avid cyclists. In addition, they have a personal connection with cancer. Each rode in memory of a loved one they had lost to the disease, carrying a photograph with them for inspiration throughout the grueling journey.
Scacheri, a postdoctoral fellow at NHGRI whose friends and colleagues exploded in applause when he approached the podium, urged all those in the audience to become educators about cancer research. "We need to give hope about the progress we've made during the past 10 years and the progress we're going to make over the next 10 to 20 years."
Dolezal, an oncologist at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, began her oncology career at the age of 18 at NCI. She spoke of the changes she has seen in cancer treatment since her time at NIH more than 14 years ago, with the evolution from generic chemotherapy drugs to more targeted therapies.
All Tour of Hope riders were cancer survivors, researchers, nurses, physicians, advocates or caregivers, and the event crystallized their commitment to educating the public about clinical research. En route to NIH, the tour participants stopped at seven cancer centers to share stories about the importance of cancer research and urged Americans to consider clinical trials if they were ever diagnosed with the disease. Currently, only about 5 percent of adult cancer patients enroll in clinical trials.
More than 33,000 people opted to sign a "Cancer Promise," pledging support for cancer research and agreeing to increase their awareness about cancer risks, screening and clinical trials. The pledges were delivered to von Eschenbach at a ceremony on the Ellipse, not far from the Capitol and White House, the day following the NIH event.
"Few people, in their lifetime, have such an opportunity to focus the world on the importance of participating in clinical research," Gallin told the NIH assembly, summarizing Armstrong's unique role as both a cancer survivor and a successful athlete.
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