Featured Rider: Tim Keller

Why do you participate in the Ride for Roswell?

My wife, Debbi, was first diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in September of 2009. Since then, she’s been moved up to stage 4 with several metastases to her ovaries, abdominal wall and muscle, lungs, liver, pancreas, chest cavity, and chest lymph nodes. Since our first visit, the staff and doctors at Roswell have gone out of their way to help us feel welcomed. Our home is in Rochester, NY and she receives primary oncology support through the Lipson Cancer Center at Rochester General. Still, we’ve been to Roswell several times for consultations and information upcoming trials. Cycling is something I love to do, and this is one way I can help to give back.

Tim Keller and friend take a selfie

What is your favorite part about Ride weekend?

The Peloton is my favorite part. Last year was my first year participating and I enjoyed meeting new people and the welcoming atmosphere.

What have you been doing to raise funds for the Ride?

So far, for the past three years I have focused on using Facebook as my primary fundraising platform.

Featured Team: Let’s Get Lizzycle

Why does your team ride in the Ride for Roswell?

We each have our own personal reasons… some of us have had cancer ourselves or have had experiences at Roswell with loved ones, or have lost parents, siblings, friends… and many of my teammates have had consultations with Roswell doctors for particular concerns, and they know what an amazing place it is. Many of us work either directly with or in support of biomedical research, and so we know first hand how important funding is. No cure for cancer can be found without a ton of money, and we are dedicated to helping Roswell fund projects to do just that.
Let's Get Lizzycle group photo at paint night
Let's Get Lizzycle group photo

What is your favorite part about Ride Weekend?

That’s easy. The actual Ride is great, but I love the Celebration of Hope. My first Celebration happened in the middle of my breast cancer treatments. I didn’t have hair (maybe a little peach fuzz), nor did I actually ride a bike that year, but I was feeling the RFR love big time. The Celebration of Hope 2016 was a night I’ll never, ever forget. I was a month post-surgery, and still faced a summer of radiation, but that night, it was all about the Ride. I felt supported, I felt peaceful, and I felt inspired. The community that surrounded me lifted me up in a way I could never have imagined, and that’s definitely not something I had ever felt before. Each year I love bringing our team together and having a blast, while reflecting on why we do the Ride.

What does leading a team mean to you?

It’s empowering. It gives me a tangible way to not only fight cancer, but to give back to the place that helped me through the darkest days of my life- and continues to do so. My colleagues, friends and family and I have grown even closer as we work together to host our annual big fundraising event, come up with new ideas to engage with our communities and raise money, and attend RFR events throughout the year. We have a great time together, as we are all a little bit crazy! 🙂 We have become a “framily” and I am very proud of the work we do. We strive to be in the top 100 teams every year, to do our very best for Roswell Park.

Riding to set the stage for the future of cancer treatment

At Roswell Park, we’re continuously looking to the future — to new data and findings, game-changing discoveries and the best available treatment options for our patients. The funds brought in through the Ride for Roswell are dedicated toward pursuing not only innovative researchers and clinicians, but also top technology and facilities.

Renier Brentjens, MD, PhD, serves as Deputy Director, The Katherine Anne Gioia Endowed Chair in Cancer Medicine, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Professor of Oncology in the Departments of Medicine and Immunology. He joined the Roswell Park team in 2021 and is already making plans to expand what Roswell Park can do for our patients.

Dr. Brentjens works with another scientist in lab
Dr. Brentjens works with another scientist in lab

Looking to the future

Dr. Brentjens’ plans are centered around cellular therapies. This type of treatment is a type of immunotherapy which uses reengineered cells to help a patient’s immune system identify and attack cancer cells.

He currently has his sights on two clinical trials, which will improve CAR T-cell therapy for lymphomas and for other B-cell cancers. Those trials are in very early stages, but it takes forward thinking and thoughtful planning to bring about changes this groundbreaking.

This work would not be possible without donor support. Thanks to riders like you and the donors who support your Ride, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation was able to promise the necessary funding for each of those two trials and an additional third trial that will focus on multiple types of solid tumor cancers such as breast and colon cancers.

“Part of the trials lies in the preparation,” Dr. Brentjens said. “You have to first build the foundation before you can build the house, and that’s what this is.”

Building the foundation

Roswell Park has done incredible work using redirected CAR T-cells in research and patient care, exploring its potential and innovating its uses. Its facilities, however, have not previously had the infrastructure to create their own CAR T-cells. Donor funding will be invested into installing the platform and equipment necessary to bring this side of the work in-house.

Setting the stage for Dr. Brentjens’ upcoming trials will not only advance these particular projects, but it will also help this whole area of investigation surge forward right here in Buffalo. This expansion will expedite research and more efficiently bring about new trials and therefore new treatment options for the patients who turn to Roswell Park for hope.

“The foundation that we lay now will help us more rapidly open the subsequent trials,” Dr. Brentjens said. “Everything that we’re doing now is to gear up our institution, our facility, to run those trials.”

Dr. Brentjens works with another scientist
Dr. Renier Brentjens

Taking it to the next step

“Roswell Park donors in the WNY area — and outside the WNY area — have made it possible for me to do this work,” Dr. Brentjens said. He also credits the forward thinking of Roswell Park’s leadership and his predecessors with preparing the way for continual advancement, particularly in the realm of cellular therapies. “At best there is a handful of institutions that are equally well set to move this technology forward, which was a remarkable discovery for me when I first came.”

On the topic of moving the technology forward, it is no secret that Dr. Brentjens is laser focused on drastically expanding the number of patients and the types of cancer Roswell Park can impact through cellular therapies. Though the initial trials coming down the pipeline will improve upon options for patients with lymphoma and B-cell cancers, he is eager to advance this technology to be available to patients with solid tumors, as well.

With the passionate drive of our researchers and the sustained dedication of our donors, these advances are just around the corner. Roswell Park continues to urgently seek the next and best options for our loved ones and neighbors battling cancers of all kinds.

That is the power of making a gift to Roswell Park.

Meet Cheryl Reinhardt: The 2022 Ride for Roswell Torch Lighter

Cheryl's story.

Six months. That’s how long Cheryl Reinhardt’s doctor said she had left to live after diagnosing her with stage 4 ovarian cancer. The news took Cheryl back to the 1980s when her mom received the same exact diagnosis and passed away a week later. Cheryl assumed the worst — until her doctor referred her to Roswell Park. “I went down to the deepest depths, and all of a sudden I was lifted back up, because somebody at Roswell said, ‘Oh look — there’s sunshine. We’re not giving up.’ And they never gave up,” Cheryl says. That was in 2004.
Cheryl poses with partner

Eighteen years later.

Cheryl laughs

Eighteen years later, Cheryl’s still delighting in everything this life has to offer. That includes cooking, scrapbooking, trips to Disney World and exploring everything in Buffalo. She’s an adventurer and laugh enthusiast whose smile lights up the room.

(See? We told you!)

Cheryl has also been a proud supporter of the Ride for Roswell for 17 years alongside her wife, Barb (pictured with Cheryl above). All of this and more make Cheryl the perfect person to represent cancer patients and light the torch at the 2022 Celebration of Hope on Friday, June 24.

“I feel like I just climbed the biggest mountain. I have had cancer for 18 years, and I was happy to carry the flag, but to carry the torch — to light the torch — that’s like winning an Oscar. It’s the highest honor.”

Lighting the way.

Being the torch lighter is an honor that Cheryl’s ready to take on. She was already getting active in preparation for Ride Day on June 25. Now, she’s also lifting weights to build arm strength and perfecting her pose.

“I want to light that torch to say, ‘We’re going to light our way out of this ugliness. And we’re going be stronger than we were before.’”

Cheryl believes there will come a day when the word cancer isn’t quite so scary. She has seen firsthand what Roswell Park can do for patients and how far treatment has advanced over the last decades. At each phase of her 18-year cancer journey, she was offered a treatment option or clinical trial. These treatment options and clinical trials were available to Cheryl because of the advances in research that donations to the Ride have made possible.

Cheryl gives fist pump

Sometimes, Cheryl’s journey wasn’t easy. There were times when she was too sick to do her favorite things or when her immune system was too weak to be around people. But all of that brought Cheryl to where she is today. Now, she’s passionate about fundraising for the Ride to advance the research that has helped her.

“The Ride for Roswell means a lot to me, because I want them to continue their success,” Cheryl says. “They have already proven that they can do it, but we need to save more people. We can’t do that without funds.”

Team Fran's Angels.

Cheryl smiling

Named in honor of Cheryl’s mother, Team Fran’s Angels (of which both Cheryl and Barb are a part) has already started working toward a fundraising goal of $25,000. Visit the team page here.

Cheryl and Barb both hope to see you on Ride weekend, and Cheryl also has a little advice for first-time riders:

“Be prepared to be embraced with love! Eventually, you’ll know everyone at the Ride.”

Riders are shaping the future of cancer by fueling research

Every day, Roswell Park is pushing to eliminate cancer’s grip on humanity. Thanks to generous funds brought in through the Ride for Roswell, we’ve seen the genesis of groundbreaking and lifesaving advances right here in Buffalo. Those new treatments and findings all have their start with new questions and ideas from Roswell Park scientists.

That’s where Roswell Park’s Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) comes in. Researchers submit their project proposals, all looking to continue to learn more about cancer. Through a competitive and rigorous process, these investigators and their work have been funded. These grants are made possible by the generosity of Ride for Roswell donors, without whom these projects could not get off the ground and make their marks on cancer as we know it.


Study of the role of immune system in anti-cancer activity of novel chemicals causing unpacking of DNA in tumor cells

Led by Katerina Gurova, MD, PhD, Department of Cell Stress Biology

This investigation expands on existing work of Dr. Gurova’s currently in clinical trial. She and her team developed a group of chemicals called curaxins which kill tumor cells without harming DNA; something many anti-cancer drugs unfortunately do. Curaxins are able to preserve DNA and healthy cells because they disrupt the binding of DNA into chromatin instead of the DNA itself. Since tumor cells are more susceptible to that damage, they are the cells that are destroyed.

These curaxins, in addition to actively killing cancer cells, are believed to also have the power to boost an immune response that will cause immune cells to attack tumor cells. This would unlock the maximal anti-tumor efficacy of curaxins, cutting off both mechanisms through which cancer evades the immune system.

Dr. Gurova and her team intend to study type 1 interferon responses as a potential biomarker of curaxin’s efficacy in activating an anti-tumor immune response. This success of this research will help scientists give cancer patients their best chance.


Study of a new blood test that may predict fatal cancer relapse after allogeneic blood or marrow transplantation

Led by Theresa Hahn, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Allogeneic blood or marrow transplantation (AlloBMT) has been used for over 60 years to cure blood cancers. The process involves collecting cells from a healthy donor and infusing them into a patient with blood cancer so those new cells can recognize the cancer cells and destroy them. Sometimes, that process doesn’t work and the cancer relapses.

Dr. Hahn will study one gene that may be responsible for allowing those donor cells to attack cancer cells. That gene produces an enzyme that has a marker, which can be measured in someone’s blood. When there’s a high level of that marker, it acts as one “brake” on the immune system. When there’s a low level, this “brake” does not seem to be activated.

Dr. Hahn and her team believe cells with this “brake” are better at killing cancer cells. They will investigate a new blood test to determine if there is an association between the amount of those markers and fatal cancer relapse.

This project will potentially directly impact the choice of donor for AlloBMT and will hopefully provide a new pathway to study how cancer cells can escape the immune system. If this study is successful, it has the potential to predict fatal cancer relapse and improve survival after this kind of transplantation.

The following investigations were funded in November 2021:

A “Tag Team” approach to T-cell therapy in ovarian cancer. Engineering long-lived T-cells that attack tumors AND instruct the T-cells already in the tumor to fight cancer.

Led by AJ Robert McGray, PhD, Departments of Translational Immuno-Oncology and Immunology

Immunotherapies have been helpful to so many cancer patients, but ovarian cancer patients have only seen modest success through immunotherapy treatment options. Dr. McGray and his team seek to meet this need for more effective options to treat ovarian cancer. One reason existing treatments might not be as effective as could be hoped is that many of the T-cells that infiltrate ovarian cancer cannot effectively target the cancer cells.

This team of researchers aims to engineer T-cells that would release bi-specific T-cell engagers (BiTEs), which would specifically target folate receptor alpha, found in ovarian cancer. The proposed study would address fundamental gaps in knowledge and potentially improve clinical outcomes for ovarian cancer patients.

This approach has the potential to be combined with and improve upon current treatments that are being evaluated in ovarian cancer, as well as other cancer types that do not routinely benefit from immunotherapy.

How does a non-protein encoding long RNA called MEG3 function as a prostate tumor suppressor?

Led by Dean Tang, PhD, Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics

More than 70% of human tumors have a low rate of maternally expressed gene 3 (MEG3), a gene which functions as a tumor suppressor in many cancers. Still, little is known about MEG3.

Dr. Tang and his team will study MEG3, particularly in prostate cancer. It is believed that MEG3 does its work by maintaining genome and chromosome integrity through regulating checkpoints and DNA damage repair.

They intend to learn more about the underlying tumor-suppressive abilities of MEG3 and discover how and why it is lost in prostate cancer. The ultimate goal is to fill a critical knowledge gap in the functions, mechanisms and regulation of MEG3 in prostate cancer, which will potentially shed light on the tumor suppressive powers in other cancers, as well.

Target the nutritional interplay between cancer cells and bone cells to limit prostate cancer bone metastases

Led by Hai Wang, PhD, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology

Most cancer patients die not because of complications from their original tumor but because of the problems that arise when the tumor has metastasized to other sites. Bone is the predominant site for metastases of prostate cancer, causing skeletal complications and marked decreases in quality of life and survival rates.

Dr. Wang and his team hypothesize that prostate cancer cells that spread to bone change the way nutrients are converted into energy there. They will investigate exchanges of nutrients between cancer cells and bone-forming cells called osteoblasts, to better understand the metabolic processes and molecular signaling when prostate cancer metastasizes to the bones.

Through this work, these researchers hope to impede the progression of the metastatic disease process and expedite future clinical trials. This could potentially lead to the development of new treatments to alleviate skeletal complications for these patients and improve survival rates.

Gear Up for Ride Spirit Week 2022!

It’s that time! This year’s Ride Spirit Week will take place from Monday, March 28 through Friday, April 1. Get ready for a jam-packed week of activities and contests that you won’t want to miss! Here’s what we have planned:

Monday, March 28

Team Recruitment Challenge

A large team wears tye-dye Team Otterly Phil t-shirts and otter bicycle helmets

Any team that recruits 10 or more members by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 1, will be entered to win a custom team T-shirt and Linde swag packs for all members!

Tuesday, March 29

24-Hour Fundraising Challenge

The first 300 riders to raise $100 will receive a $100 matching gift courtesy of AdPro Sports and an anonymous supporter. Tell your family and friends that this is the day to donate!

Wednesday, March 30

Kickoff at Buffalo Riverworks

Spirit Week team photo

Join us at the Ride for Roswell Kickoff at Buffalo RiverWorks! All are welcome! Lawn signs will also be available for pick-up for riders who have raised at least $100.

Thursday, March 31

Lawn Sign Delivery

Riding to End Cancer lawn sign with sunset in background

The team is ready to start delivering your lawn signs! If you got your fundraising started early and hit that $100 mark by Friday, March 25, your lawn sign will be delivered starting today as part of this year’s rider rewards. But that’s not all … one lucky rider will have an “Instant Extra Mile Club Member” voucher attached to their sign, courtesy of West Herr.

Friday, April 1

Ride Gear Happy Hour

Team photo at Ride for Roswell

Break out your favorite Ride gear from over the years and spread Ride spirit all around Western New York! When you wear your swag to any of the following businesses today, you will receive 10% off your bill. (Check back periodically for an updated list):

Big Ditch Brewing Company

Buffalo RiverWorks

Hartman’s Distilling Co.

Hofbrauhaus Buffalo (4-6 p.m.)

SPoT Coffee 

We can’t wait to celebrate Spirit Week 2022 with our incredible Ride community!

Featured Rider: Cassie Townsend

Why do you participate in the Ride for Roswell?

I ride in hopes to end the fight against cancer. I first rode in 2018, and by 2019 I had become a patient and had my first surgery at Roswell. Ever since it has really held a special place in my heart! From the administrative and medical staff, to the riders and volunteers… it really feels like such a close community!

Cassie Townsend progress photo

What is your favorite part about Ride weekend?

It’s hard to pick just one thing that I love most about Ride Weekend! Truly, the patient tribute and the peloton at the Celebration of hope, that alone is enough to give you goosebumps! It’s the perfect reminder of why we fundraise and ride.

Cassie Townsend selfie

What have you been doing to raise funds for the Ride?

I think a lot of my work for fundraising is year long when sharing my skin cancer journey. Once it comes time for donations I post a lot on social media with ride facts and share my own pictures. I also make sure each person that donates knows how much I appreciate them putting their hard earned money towards this important cause!