10 Years of SurVaxM

10 Years of SurVaxM

In 10 short years, donor support helped bring a homegrown cancer-fighting discovery to the national stage in the form of a clinical trial. SurVaxM, a therapeutic cancer vaccine developed at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, has the potential to drastically extend the lives of patients living with brain cancer. You and your donors are part of that.

SurVaxM was created in a lab at Roswell Park by Robert Fenstermaker, MD, Chair of Neurosurgery and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery. Dr. Fenstermaker is the Principal Investigator of the nationwide randomized trial and Dr. Ciesielski is CEO of MimiVax, the company which now produces SurVaxM. Their work has been passionately supported by donor funding for the past 10 years, proving instrumental in bringing this new treatment to where it is today.

Robert Fenstermaker, MD, Chair of Neurosurgery and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, with a sample of SurVaxM

2012

Roswell Park announces a new clinical research study that could put cancer cells “in a Catch-22.”

2013

A phase I clinical trial begins in human patients, supported by the American Cancer Society.

SurVaxM
SurVaxM lab image

2014

Roswell Park donors begin to financially support SurVaxM alongside the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation through events like Ride for Roswell and more.

2015

Drs. Fenstermaker and Ciesielski present their phase I clinical trial results to the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

Phase II of the clinical trial begins, bringing hope to 50 newly diagnosed patients at Roswell Park and Cleveland Clinic.

Ciesielski and Fenstermaker in the lab
SurVaxM

2016

Experts investigate usefulness of SurVaxM for patients with multiple myeloma.

2017

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) awards orphan drug status for SurVaxM. This designation is intended to encourage innovation in the treatment of rare diseases.

Dr. Ciesielski SurVaxM lab image
Ciesielski and Fenstermaker in the lab

2018

Findings through SurVaxM trials open doors for other types of treatments like CAR T-cell therapy and antibody-based therapies.

Drs. Fenstermaker and Ciesielski join their colleagues at Cleveland Clinic to present their phase II findings so far at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Results from phase II clinical trial show significant success: well-tolerated; 96.7% of patients did not experience disease progression within the first six months; 94.2% of study participants were alive one year after their diagnosis, as opposed to 65% of patients in a historical comparison group.

2019

Trial leaders bring fully completed results to the ASCO Annual Meeting.

Roswell Park and MimiVax announce the next step forward: a larger scale phase II study and a licensing agreement.

SurVaxM lab image
Dr. Renuka Iyer

2020

Two new studies, led by Renuka Iyer, MD, of Roswell Park, explore the potential use of SurVaxM for patients with neuroendocrine tumors.

2022

SurVaxM

2023

The FDA grants Fast Track Designation for SurVaxM, opening doors to accelerated approval as late-stage clinical trials advance.

2024

You fundraise for Ride for Roswell, armed with the confidence that your hard work is propelling something meaningful on a national scale.

Want to learn more about your impact?

Contact our team at rideforroswell@roswellpark.org.

Get the new MyRFR Fundraising App

Get the new MyRFR Fundraising App

My RFR app

Enhance your fundraising with the new Ride for Roswell app, MyRFR.

When you Ride for Roswell, you’re committing to raising funds for critical cancer research and patient care programs at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Your efforts can not only change lives today but also shape the future of cancer care. Learn more about your impact.

Let the MyRFR app supercharge your fundraising and get you ready for the most impactful summer tradition.

Here are some of the great things you can do with the app!

  • Personalize your fundraiser and track your fundraising progress.
  • Accept in-person check donations with state-of-the-art scanning technology and bank-grade security features.
  • Receive a personalized QR code to share your fundraising page with friends and family.
Mobile deposit on the Ride for Roswell fundraising app
  • Connect the app to your activity tracker (ex. Fitbit and Apple Watch).
  • Send emails or SMS messages to your contacts asking for support and donations.
  • Integrate with your Ride for Roswell fundraising dashboard and Facebook fundraiser.
  • Share your page on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • And much more!
My RFR fundraising app

How to get started.

The MyRFR app is free to download in the App Store or Google Play. Search for “My RFR” wherever you download apps.

Use the username and password that you set up to log into your Fundraising Dashboard. After your first login, you can also use facial recognition to get into your account.

If you have any questions about the fundraising app, please contact us!

Email: RideforRoswell@RoswellPark.org  

Phone: 716-843-7433

For more fundraising tips, check out our tools here.

How Vidya Shah Became 2023’s Top Youth Fundraiser

How Vidya Shah Became 2023’s Top Youth Fundraiser

Vidya Shah, who is now a freshman at George Washington University, participated in her first Ride for Roswell in eighth grade. From a young age, she has understood the value of community, service to others and being a part of something bigger than herself. Her dedication to the cause paved the way for her to become the Ride’s top youth fundraiser of 2023.

Vidya Shah at Ride for Roswell (cropped)
Vidya's Ride for Roswell team in 2022

Vidya’s First Ride

Living in Western New York, Vidya was familiar with Ride for Roswell, but her connection to the event grew immensely after experiencing it for herself.

“I joined because I liked biking and then it spiraled into a lot more,” said Vidya.

That first year, she signed up for the June event in May. Even with a later start, she was able to rally a few people and make fundraising a priority.

“In the end, it was two of my friends and my mom, and we did the three-mile ride that year. We raised $1,800. It was definitely a welcome surprise to see so many of the people I reached out to were more than willing to donate.”

The atmosphere on Ride Day was unlike anything she could’ve anticipated.

“It was amazing. That’s why I wanted to come back and do it again and keep on extending the team.”

And that’s exactly what she did in the several years that followed.

Vidya’s Secret to Fundraising

For Vidya, fundraising isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, she uses a combination of traditional and modern methods to reach her goals.

She takes advantage of texting by sending a link of her fundraising dashboard to her family and friends multiple times throughout Ride Season. However, a major piece of her campaign is going door-to-door to collect donations. This part of the journey takes time. Vidya says she goes around her neighborhood and nearby communities over the span of several days.

“Even when going door-to-door, I came across two or three people who told me that they’re currently getting treated or they currently have cancer,” she explained. “It was very powerful going to those people’s houses and learning about their stories, and that is one of the main reasons I ride.”

Vidya's Ride for Roswell team in 2020.
Vidya at the 2020 Ride for Roswell.
Vidya's Ride for Roswell team in 2021.
Vidya's team in 2022

Connection to the Cause

Like so many riders, Vidya, too, has a personal connection to the cancer cause. Both of her maternal grandparents and her great-grandfather passed away from cancer.

“They were all obviously very close to my mother and I never got to meet my mom’s mom. She passed away before I was born.”

While her loved ones were in India during their battles with the disease, Vidya knows her involvement with the Ride has a worldwide impact.

“Even if my grandparents weren’t treated at Roswell Park or in the United States, just the general cause of cancer research really was quite personal for me.”

Two of Vidya’s friends were also diagnosed with cancer. Both are now thankfully doing well, but knowing the grasp cancer has on so many motivates Vidya to keep raising funds for Roswell Park.

“It’s in my hometown. It’s helping people in my community.”

Ride Your Own Way

Vidya has built a community of her own through her Ride for Roswell team. But, in 2023, the weekend event posed a conflict. The Ride fell on the same day as her high school graduation.

Her team, which included several other high school seniors, decided they still wanted to be involved even if they couldn’t participate in the traditional way. So, Vidya got right to work.

With the help of her family, she planned a separate ride for the following Sunday. It was a 10-mile route to Ellicott Creek Trailway Park.

“I think what exceeded all expectations was last year we had our biggest team yet with almost 36 members. And what surprised me was, over the years, I had teachers who had initially reached out about just donating, and this year they were saying, ‘Hey, I want to ride.’”

To recreate some of the Ride Day elements, parents of the riders followed along with their cars, and at the rest stops along the way, they supplied snacks and drinks and cheered on the team.

“That really helped make it a little bit closer to the experience. In general, the ride was great.”

Despite all the challenges and pivots that Ride Season, Vidya managed to hit her personal record for fundraising, and was honored as the Top Youth Fundraiser for 2023.

Her parents proudly accepted the award on her behalf at the Pathways Park Ceremony in August once Vidya was away at college.

Vidya's Ride for Roswell team in 2023
Vidya's family at the Pathways Park ceremony.
Vidya at the 2020 Ride for Roswell.

Why Young People Should Get Involved

The Ride has become not only a summer tradition for Vidya, but something that has grown into an important part of her life. She encourages other young people to get involved and do their part in the mission to end cancer.

“Nothing ever just comes in a big breakthrough. There are a lot of steps to take to get there and you are a part of those steps by just fundraising.”

Creating community, making memories and leaving a lasting impact: that’s what Vidya has accomplished through the Ride, a journey that began as a young teenager and continues as she enters adulthood.

“My connection with Ride for Roswell has definitely influenced me to want to pursue research and also to stay connected with service throughout my life.”

eBikes at Ride for Roswell

eBikes at Ride for Roswell

Ride for Roswell offers nine different routes, ranging from four to 100 miles. With nearly 8,000 riders, there is a mixed skillset among participants. While a traditional road or hybrid bike is preferred, some riders may want to complete their routes on an eBike. The good news is that class 1, pedal assist eBikes are allowed at Ride for Roswell. To ensure a safe and positive ride experience, however, there are some factors you should consider.

Ebikes stock photo

eBike Usage

Participants using eBikes must still follow the rules of the road. This includes riding on pace with the group of cyclists on your route, passing when safe and waiting your turn in traffic. eBikes should not be used as an adaptive aid to ride longer or faster than you would on a traditional bike.

Charging Your eBike

It is up to the rider to monitor their own charging progress.

One battery/charge will not be sufficient to get you through the longer routes, especially as riders approach the 100-mile mark. In some cases, riders may need two or three batteries for routes with higher mileage. If you bring a second battery, you will need to carry it with you during the ride and have a plan as to when you will change it on the route.

Still have questions about bringing your eBike?

Contact our team at rideforroswell@roswellpark.org.

Bill Loecher reaches $1,000,000 Lifetime Achievement

Bill Loecher reaches $1 million lifetime achievement

“If you know Bill, you know he moves fast. But there’s a method to Bill’s motion and it shows in all the things he’s done for both the Ride and Roswell Park.” 

– Mitch Flynn, Ride for Roswell Founder

This is a photo of Bill Loecher being honored for hitting $1 million in lifetime fundraising for Ride for Roswell.
Bill being interviewed at Ride for Roswell

In 2023, longtime rider and volunteer Bill Loecher reached a milestone only one other person has achieved in the history of Ride for Roswell: $1 million in lifetime fundraising. That year alone, he raised almost $185,000.

“Not only are people being cured but they’re extending their life. All of those things are happening and they’re happening right here at Roswell Park. It’s the most exciting time since I’ve been doing this,” said Bill in an interview at the 2023 Ride.

Commitment to the Cause

Bill’s impact on Roswell Park can’t be measured just in numbers — even though the numbers are incredibly impressive. You’d also have to look at his legacy as a whole.

Since 2012, Bill has captained Team West Herr. Under his leadership, West Herr is not only the Ride’s presenting sponsor, but also the top fundraising team. Bill’s dedication to the Ride spans far beyond Ride Weekend. He also volunteers with the event logistics team throughout the year as a member of the campus planning committee. In this role, he works with volunteers and staff to create a magical Ride Day experience for all who are involved. This entails overseeing food, flow and everything in between.

“Bill is one of a kind. He donates his time, his talents and his treasures to see the Ride succeed,” said Andrea Gregory, the director of Ride for Roswell. “Bill is at the Ride from sun up until sun down the week leading up to the event, and for several days post-event. The entire Ride Team is so grateful to Bill for his countless hours of support.”

Bill, Ride Founder Mitch Flynn, and other riders at Ride for Roswell
Bill with Roswell Park backdrop at the Peloton during Ride for Roswell
Bill Loecher at IceCycle

In 2018, Bill created and spearheaded the Herd of Hope campaign to enlist the Western New York corporate community in supporting cancer research at Roswell Park.

“Two $500,000 team science research grants were the immediate outcome of Bill’s Herd of Hope initiative,” said Ride Founder Mitch Flynn.

In addition to serving as the community chair of the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation’s scientific advisory committee, Bill took on perhaps his biggest venture in 2021. That’s when he founded a new uniquely Buffalo peer-to-peer fundraising event called IceCycle. With Bill’s tenacity, even in the face of a global pandemic, IceCycle has raised more than $1.4 million (and counting) for cancer research and quality-of-life programs at Roswell Park.  

Honoring Bill’s Lifetime Achievement

At the close of every Ride Season, top fundraisers, teams and volunteers are honored during a ceremony in Kathy and Joe Curatolo Pathways Park. During the 2023 dedication, Bill was recognized for his lifetime achievement of raising $1 million for the Ride.

Mitch noted, “It took the Ride 11 years to break the million-dollar mark for single-year fundraising, and that was back in 2006. By contrast, it only took Bill ten years to break the million-dollar mark for all-time fundraising.”

Perhaps it’s Bill’s background as a “car guy” that gives him the tools to sell this incredible cause to possible donors, or maybe it’s his contagious energy around the mission that makes people want to give back. However he does it, Bill has paved the way for lifechanging research and care through his fundraising, and he’s set a gold standard for how others can do the same.

Still, Bill emphasized that the fundraising totals are just one measure of a rider’s efforts. He took his time at the podium during the Pathways Park ceremony to highlight another group of riders. Not the top fundraisers, but instead, riders who are recognized for their efforts in securing donations.

“While the success of the Ride, like any other fundraising event, is measured in financial terms, I’ll suggest it’s not just all about the money. It’s the passion, the dedication, the determination and the relentless efforts of these individuals that truly define the success of this event.”

Bill Loecher speaking at Pathways Park, being honored for his Ride for Roswell lifetime fundraising achievement.

The Ride Team thanks you, Bill, for your years of incredible dedication and service!