On June 26, Jan Gierlach of Barrington, Illinois, presented Leonidas C. Platanias, MD, PhD, director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, with a check for $206,991.85, which is one third of the proceeds he raised earlier this year biking across the country. Through Ride for 3 Reasons, Jan raised awareness and over $600,000 for three causes close to his heart—cancer research, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research, and palliative care.
“We at the Lurie Cancer Center are honored by your confidence in us,” said Dr. Platanias. “We are going to continue doing the very best we can in our investigations to show our deep appreciation for your tremendous efforts.” Dr. Platanias also serves as the Jesse, Sara, Andrew, Abigail, Benjamin, and Elizabeth Lurie Professor of Oncology.
“This ride was one of the best and most difficult experiences of my life thus far,” said Jan. “I believe, though, that the hardest things are the ones that are most worthwhile.” A 2017 graduate of Barrington High School, Jan will start his first year at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, in August.
“The people who contributed to Jan’s ride are rooting for you and your talented teams of faculty,” said Bob Lee, who created Ride for 3 Reasons in 2001.
Ride for 3 Reasons
Mr. Lee put his passion for cycling to work over a decade ago with a mission to raise funds and awareness to help those in need. He proceeded to complete three separate solo bike rides to fundraise for the three causes: cancer, ALS, and hospice.
“I’m not a cyclist, and I am not a fundraiser. I am more of a peddler with a passion to help conquer disease and support those living with life-threatening illnesses,” said Mr. Lee. “These were purpose-driven rides. The people fighting cancer and ALS, the hospice nurses, and all of the people who collaborated with me on these rides—they were the ones who gave me pedal power.”
When Jan was in the third grade, Mr. Lee, who is himself a cancer survivor, gave a presentation at his school that inspired Jan to action. Not only has he now fulfilled a childhood dream of biking across the country, Jan also is carrying on the legacy that Mr. Lee started.
“These three reasons are just as much mine, as they are Bob’s, as they are everyone’s,” said Jan. “They are the reasons I did this ride, and the reasons that I hope many others will choose to help in their own unique and gifted ways.”
“Cancer is much smarter than we think—it has been evolving for thousands of years. Collective effort is the only way we will outsmart it,” said Dr. Platanias.
In the spirit of this collaboration, Lurie Cancer Center investigators are working together to find new ways to detect and treat cancer. One example of this type of cooperative work resides in the OncoSET Precision Medicine Program, which is a new patient-centered concept based on the foundation that each patient’s cancer is unique. The “SET” stands for Sequence. Evaluate. Treat., and is designed to provide personalized evaluations and customized treatment plans for patients through a combination of genomic sequencing, molecular analysis, and pathology, as well as a Molecular Tumor Board made up of experts across multiple fields.
At the Lurie Cancer Center, Dr. Platanias leads a team of top-notch physician-scientists who specialize across all fields of cancer and who are committed to a cancer-free future. The Lurie Cancer Center, which was first established in 1974 and later rededicated with its current name in 1991, is one of only 48 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation. It is a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and a part of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium.