Indiana University’s School of Medicine announced today that Rafat Abonour, M.D., a physician and scientist/researcher at IU Simon Cancer Center, will celebrate his 10th year of biking on Oct. 3 for Miles for Myeloma – a 300-mile, 3-day bicycle fundraiser designed to increase money and awareness for a rare form of blood cancer.
This year’s bike journey is being referred to as a “Decade of Dedication” tour, commemorating the ride Dr. Abonour and his fellow bikers first embarked on 10 years ago. This year’s anniversary for the event kicks off at 8:30 am, with Abonour and fellow riders biking away from the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus, located on the north side of Michigan Street and the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute. (Parking is available in the Vermont Street garage.)
The annual event has so far raised $2.5 million in funds for multiple myeloma research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, where Abonour and colleagues are researching the marrow microenvironment and the role that the abnormal immune systems of myeloma patients’ play in contributing to the growth of tumors, as well as the destruction of bone and resistance to chemotherapy.
Since the start of the fundraising bike ride a decade ago, there have been major advances in the treatment of multiple myeloma. Although no cure has been found, there have been significant strides in managing the disease; thus, improving the life expectancy and quality of life for patients suffering from the rare blood cancer.
This year’s three-day, 300-mile cycling journey will take the bike riders from Indianapolis to Spencer – and from Spencer to Terre Haute, IN. The group will then return to the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis at 4:15 pm on Sunday, Oct. 5, where over 500 patients and family members are expected to greet Abonour and the other cyclists for a finish-line celebration.
Patients with multiple myeloma are usually older than 65. While the cause of the little-known blood cancer remains unknown, African-American men with relatives already affected by the disease have a greater chance of contracting the cancer.
Like leukemia and lymphoma, myeloma originates in a patient’s bone marrow. From there, the cancer can then spread throughout the body, where it can weaken bones, damage vital organs and compromise the immune system.
“What’s perplexing is that it’s not really one disease,” said Dr. Abonour.
He added that what his team is still trying to figure out is a definition of the different subtypes, as he said some are easier to treat than others, resulting in some that can be cured.
“And our goal is to identify those patients and treat them differently,” he explained. “When I started working on multiple myeloma, we had one or two drugs with which to treat it; now we have six and should have a couple more by the end of the year. So I’m not as pessimistic as I used to be. This is a cancer that is rare, but we can find a cure.”