Dr. Emese Zsiros: Researching and riding for cancer cures

Dr. Emese Zsiros: Researching and riding for cancer cures

Dr. Emese Zsiros’ work at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has two main facets: treating women with cancer and researching to find the next cure. As the Chair of the Department of Gynecological Oncology, her passion stretches from the clinic to the community.

Dr. Zsiros and her dog at Ride for Roswell
Here you will see Dr. Zsiros in an Extra Mile Club jersey at Ride for Roswell.
Cheryl, the 2023 Torch Lighter, posing with Dr. Zsiros and her dog at Ride for Roswell.

Riding to end cancer.

Dr. Zsiros came to Roswell Park in 2014, and Ride for Roswell was one of the first fundraising events she participated in as a team member.

“At that time, I only had one daughter. She was four years old. It was a huge honor and really emotional to be able to participate in the Celebration of Hope, to be able to walk with our patients in the procession, to be able to raise money and awareness of gynecologic cancers, but also to able to show my daughter what Mommy and Daddy are doing.”

Dr. Zsiros’ husband, Dr. Gyorgy Paragh, is also a physician at Roswell Park. He serves as the Chair of the Department of Dermatology. During that first Ride Weekend as a family, Dr. Zsiros says their daughter could sense the love and gratitude from the patients.

“Just seeing the enthusiasm of the crowd cheering for the cancer patients, cheering for the Peloton riders, cheering for the physicians as you’re walking through the procession, I remember it really left a big mark on her.”

Nine years later, they have four children – all of whom will be riding this summer and walking in the procession at the Celebration of Hope.

“I have twin boys, and they typically walk with my husband’s team. Our two girls will be walking with me and the gynecology patients, representing women.”

Full spectrum of care.

Cancer care is not one-size-fits-all, and Dr. Zsiros prides herself on really getting to know the women she serves.

“We walk the path together, from the time of diagnosis, the surgery, all the chemotherapies until their cancer journey is through.”

It’s because of those relationships that Dr. Zsiros is even more motivated to discover new breakthroughs that can improve and extend life.

“My research focuses on ovarian cancer research and immunotherapy. I think this is a deadly disease that typically doesn’t get a lot of attention. Part of that is because it affects women, but a minority of women,” Dr. Zsiros explained. “When the mother falls ill, it tends to affect the entire family due to her common role as the primary caregiver. This type of research not only assists our patients directly but also has a broader impact, often benefiting multiple generations under the familial umbrella she heads.”

Staff members with the Department of Gynecological Oncology stand by those families every day at Roswell Park, but they also come together to show their support during Ride Weekend.

 

Team Roswell.

Since Dr. Zsiros became chair of the department, she has encouraged the entire gynecology staff to get involved with Ride for Roswell. Last year, they even had special shirts made for their team.

“The entire gynecologic oncology team came together as a cohesive unit, providing an invaluable experience for our team members. This momentous occasion allowed us to connect with this community and the Roswell family deeply, transcending our regular daily work routines.”

Her message to other Roswell Park employees considering signing up: “Don’t think about it twice, because it is so much fun!”

Fun and fulfilling. From raising critical funds for cancer research, to pushing yourself physically while riding, Ride Weekend is something Dr. Zsiros and hundreds of other riders look forward to all season long.

“Last year I took on a longer route and it was challenging. The heat was intense, and navigating through it was strenuous. But I felt so accomplished and so happy by the end of the day that I did something meaningful. I really wouldn’t have given up that opportunity for anything else.”

She explained that Ride for Roswell showcases what it means to be a part of the Roswell Park community.

“We are really in this together: health care providers, patients, researchers and family members.”

Chris Eberle, an active light in the Ride’s legacy

Chris Eberle, an active light in the Ride’s legacy.

Ride Weekend evokes different feelings from each participant. For some, it’s action. For others, it’s remembrance. For many, it’s hope.

Nothing brings together all those emotions better than the Celebration of Hope, an event that wouldn’t have been possible without longtime volunteer and cancer survivor Chris Eberle.

The upcoming Ride for Roswell marks two milestones for Chris: 15 years of service and six years cancer free.

Chris Eberle during her cancer treatment. Chris is a longtime volunteer with Ride for Roswell

A partnership begins.

Chris first began her partnership with Roswell Park in the early-2000s when she owned a design and communications firm. She was brought on to help educate the public about what it meant to be a comprehensive cancer center and the important work being done at Roswell Park.

The more she learned, the more she wanted to get involved. Soon after, she started volunteering for the Ride. Chris served on the steering committee and brought her marketing expertise to the forefront.

“When I started, the Ride didn’t have a website yet. We developed the website and the ability to register online.”

As the Ride grew, Chris’s role evolved. For example, she played a pivotal role in turning the Ride into a two-day event.

“The Ride is always on Saturday. Then we thought that we really needed another component, so we decided to have an opening ceremony and it was in the University at Buffalo Stadium. It was a way to honor the researchers, clinicians, patients and survivors and nurses.”

That was in 2012. A few years later, with Chris’ leadership, the Friday night ceremony would see another evolution into what we now know as the Celebration of Hope.

The ceremonial torch at the Celebration of Hope at Ride for Roswell
This is a photo of the flame that lights the ceremonial torch at Ride for Roswell

The Ceremonial Torch.

“For my 10th anniversary with the Ride, I wanted to do something memorable, something to give back to the Ride.”

Chris was the visionary for the ceremonial torch, which debuted for the first time at the Celebration of Hope in 2017.

“The flame represents the patients and survivors. It represents the compassion of our nurses and our clinicians. And it represents the brilliance of our researchers.”

Chris explained the torch would serve as a kickoff to the Ride. Much like the Olympic torch, it would stay lit from Friday night until the last rider came in on Saturday.

“And we still do that to this day,” Chris said with a smile.

The Ride team and committee, including Chris, also developed the Peloton, a Friday night ride exclusively for Extra Mile Club (now Extra Mile Club Silver) members. That route starts at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and finishes at UB right before the commencement of the Celebration of Hope.

“The [Peloton riders] bring a little light from downtown and we light the torch with that light making the connection between Roswell Park and the Ride.”

That idea that Chris spearheaded remains the central focus of Ride Weekend. While she watched it come to fruition for the first time, its message resonated even more deeply than she could’ve imagined.

Chris’s cancer battle.

One week before the Ride’s inaugural year for torch lighting, Chris was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“The day we set up the torch for the first time was my first biopsy.”

Chris underwent a year of treatment including chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.

“It was grueling. You lose your hair, and I was told I was going to have one of the hardest chemotherapies. You just hope you make it through.”

As Chris was nearing the end of her treatment in 2018, she was honored as the Ride for Roswell Torch Lighter.

Chris lighting the same torch that she led the creation of just one year prior became a moment that reminds us all why the Ride matters: why we must continue to fight for more treatments, more research and more memories – like this one.

“It was relieving in a way to light the torch the next year because I thought, man, I made it. It was pretty amazing.”

Chris Eberle lighting the ceremonial torch at the Celebration of Hope during Ride for Roswell.
This is a photo of Chris Eberle after lighting the ceremonial torch at Ride for Roswell.
In this photo Chris Eberle is celebrating after ringing the Victory Bell at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Continuing the mission.

Shortly after the Ride in 2018, Chris rang the Victory Bell at Roswell Park, marking the end of a transformative chapter.

“I have to say, there are days that I don’t want to be reminded of my cancer, but I wouldn’t give up working for the Ride. Roswell Park saved my life.”

Message to other volunteers.

Chris’s influence on the Ride will be felt for generations to come. When asked what she would say to someone considering getting involved, she didn’t hesitate.

“Once you’ve experienced Ride weekend, you’ll never be the same. The passion, compassion and dedication of every participant, from riders, to survivors, clinicians, researchers and nurses is extraordinary. It is truly a rewarding experience to know that you are making a difference by volunteering in the fight to cure cancer.”

Chris will have another full-circle moment at the upcoming Ride. Volunteers from all of Roswell Park’s events will be invited to the 2023 Celebration of Hope, as a thank you for their dedication and commitment to the cause.

“We couldn’t raise as much as we do every year if we didn’t have all of the volunteers, and all of that money is going to save somebody in your family someday.”

This is a photo of Chris Eberle hugging Dr. Candace Johnson at Ride for Roswell.

Why you should become an Extra Mile Club Member

Why you should become an Extra Mile Club Member

Do you want to go the extra mile for cancer patients? Become an Extra Mile Club member!

This is a rider at Ride for Roswell who is a member of the Extra Mile Club

How it works.

When you raise $1,500 or more for Ride for Roswell, you instantly become a member of the Extra Mile Club (EMC). This club is open to anyone with a passion for change and dedication to our mission to end cancer.

This photo shows two Extra Mile Club members at Ride for Roswell

Perks for EMC members.

In addition to the tremendous sense of pride you’ll have from becoming an EMC member, there are some additional perks as well!

EMC members receive:

  • Exclusive access to the Extra Mile Club tent
  • Official Extra Mile Club jersey
  • Official Extra Mile Club hat
  • Complimentary dinner at the Celebration of Hope
  • Name listed in the 2023 Ride Magazine
  • VIP parking
  • All Rider Rewards below $1,500

There’s also an opportunity to earn an even higher designation as an EMC Silver member. EMC Silver is for riders who raise $2,500 or more.

EMC Silver members receive:

  • Official Extra Mile Club Silver jersey
  • Exclusive access for you and a guest to the Extra Mile Club Silver tent on Ride Day
  • Admission to the Peloton on June 23 (pending all requirements have been met)
  • Invitation to the Kathy & Joe Curatolo Pathways Park event celebrating top fundraisers and teams
  • All Rider Rewards below $2,500

Hear from current EMC members!

Don’t just take it from us, here’s what other Ride EMC and EMC Silver members have to say.

My favorite part about being EMC Silver is the Peloton and the start of the Ride. It’s such an honor to be a part of this group of passionate riders/fundraisers, it’s so moving to launch from outside of Roswell Park, and so touching when we raise the cards with patients’ names up to the windows. While we can never really see them, but knowing that they are there looking down on us is so powerful.” – Rob Goldberg

“Getting donations for my Ride for Roswell was easy. Not because I am a supreme fundraiser or have extreme skills. It was easy because of the person I am riding in memory of, Jean Marie Gimbert, my sister-in-law. Her passing last year impacted a large family and huge circle of friends. Jean only saw the best in others and a kind word was her trademark. So, all I had to do was let a few people know that I was riding in her memory and they could go to my page and donate and we watched the donations accumulate. When you ride for someone you care about enables you to access a variety of people they touched in their lives. The family, friends, and employment network are a good beginning. Neighbors are an often-untapped resource.” – Peter Pasnik

Worried about fundraising?

No problem! Your Ride Community is here with advice.

Social media makes it so easy now, even if you just share a link to your fundraising page and post about what you’re doing, that’s a great start.”Gabrielle Acosta

“Push your fundraising through social media. I have raised all of my funds through Facebook and have pivoted around my birthday and other special occasions.  Just ask often – it works, and you’ll be successful!” – Rob Goldberg 

“What you find out is a lot of people have either had their own experience or family experience with cancer, and people want to help. It’s actually a lot easier than you realize as soon as you start putting yourself out there and letting them know about the cause. Remind people. Remind people. Remind people.”John Heimback Jr

This is a photo of Extra Mile Club members at Ride for Roswell, including Mitch Flynn, founder of Ride for Roswell.

And that’s not all!

Our Ride for Roswell fundraising team is here to help you each step of the way.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 716-843-7433 or email us at rideforroswell@roswellpark.org.

Ride for Roswell boosts quality of life for cancer patients

Ride for Roswell boosts quality of life for cancer patients

At Roswell Park, we’re committed to improving cancer patients’ quality of life; caring for the whole person, not just treating their disease. Our work doesn’t end at medical treatment, but encompasses the mental, emotional and spiritual wellness of our patients, as well.

When you participate in or donate toward Ride for Roswell, you’re making it possible for Roswell Park experts to run Quality-of-Life Programs like these, and more!

HLA Typing

Before a patient receives a bone marrow transplant, they need to go through human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing to find a donor with the best genetic match. This process is not typically covered by health insurance when a patient needs to find a donor who is not a familial relative. Through a Quality-of-Life grant, made possible by the generosity of donations, patients have financial support through their HLA typing and transplant process.

This photo shows a cancer patient receiving treatment at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Fertility Preservation Program for Young Adult Patients

When a young adult is battling cancer, it’s often their top priority and concern to eliminate the cancer. But cancer treatment or cancer itself can have a negative impact on a patient’s fertility or reproductive system. Through the Fertility Preservation Program, Roswell Park helps patients keep a hopeful eye on their futures and the possibilities that lie ahead. Through the generosity of donors, patients can speak with fertility experts to find the best solution for their life before treatment begins.

This is a photo of Elevate Salon at The 11 Day Power Play Resource Center at Roswell Park.

The 11 Day Power Play Cancer Resource Center and Elevate Salon

Going through cancer treatment can be one of the toughest times in a patient and their loved ones’ lives. Thankfully, donors fully fund The 11 Day Power Play Cancer Resource Center at Roswell Park to ease some of the stressors faced. There, patients and caregivers are greeted with warmth and compassion. They can access educational materials, comfort items and various resources to help them through their cancer journey. To accommodate for the growing patient population, Roswell Park also recently opened the Elevate Salon where experts help patients navigate hair loss. These essential spaces put patients’ needs first and allow for a safe place to take a deep breath and gather strength.

Creative Arts Team

Researchers at Roswell Park found that dedicated exposure to art improves patients’ hope and mental well-being and decreases their anxiety. The Art Heals Gallery, a curated space for patients and their loved ones to relax and immerse themselves in work by some of the area’s best artists, is fully supported by donations. The Creative Arts Team at Roswell Park is committed to providing not only incredible artwork for patients to enjoy, but art in which they can actively participate, as well, like art kits for inpatients, creative events and other experiences.

Transportation & Translation Services

Roswell Park is committed to giving patients the best possible care. If those patients can’t get to Roswell Park or have barriers to communication when they arrive, they can’t receive the care they need. Powered by donor funding, Roswell Park’s Transportation & Translation Services helps our patients access critical cancer care who might not be able to do so otherwise. There’s an increasing number of patients at Roswell Park who don’t have reliable transportation and a growing population of patients in need of translation support. Now more than ever it’s crucial to provide these services so everyone can have access to the best cancer care available to them.

This image shows a driver in a Roswell Park vehicle, one of the transportation services offered through our quality of life programs.

Your $1 donation turns into $23 in cancer research funding

Your $1 donation turns into $23 in cancer research funding

This photo shows Dr. Gudkov of Roswell Park in a lab doing cancer research.

There are many powerful ways to support Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s goal of freeing our world from the fear, pain and loss due to cancer. One of those ways is riding in or donating to the Ride for Roswell. That’s because the funds raised by the Western New York community each year at the Ride are put to work immediately, fueling cutting-edge cancer research and quality-of-life programs for cancer patients and their caregivers.

Roswell Park has the best and brightest researchers and doctors who have come from around the world to Buffalo, New York to dedicate their life to studying and treating cancer. Donations to Roswell Park through the Ride for Roswell enable breakthrough cancer discoveries and bring new treatments from the bench (lab) to the bedside (patients).

We’re proud to say that for every dollar donated to cancer research, Roswell Park is now able to leverage an additional $23 from external grants toward that research. This is thanks to the support of the Ride and the hard work of Roswell Park researchers.

How cancer research funding works

Cancer research requires a lot of work, resources and investment. With the great wealth of talent among Roswell Park’s researchers and scientists, there are a lot of promising ideas brewing. Many of these discoveries are only able to move forward with the support of donations.

Each year, Roswell Park scientists apply and compete for grants from the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation through the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). The SAC process is led by Drs. Mukund Seshadri and Kirsten Moysich, who select an internal objective group of peers to sit on the committee based on expertise and areas of research. Reviewers are asked to thoroughly evaluate and consider the scientific promise of each application. The most promising grant applications are awarded with donor-raised funds to allow scientists to continue their cancer research.

This seed money is used for researchers to obtain primary research data and, in turn, apply for larger national grants. The initiatives that receive support often lead to long-term funding from national organizations and new treatments.

Leukemia Lab Environmental, cancer research

Impact of fundraising at Roswell Park

Since 2011, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, with funds from Ride for Roswell, has awarded over $16 million to researchers through the Scientific Advisory Committee through 245 grants to 146 scientists.

These grants have led to the publication of 167 papers, the start of at least 20 clinical trials based on homegrown science at Roswell Park and the investment of over $96 million in external grant funding.

That means that for every dollar donated to cancer research, Roswell Park receives an additional $23 in external funding for cancer research.

The dedication and commitment of riders, donors and volunteers is driving work in state-of-the-art labs that fuels discoveries that are changing the future of cancer.