Tag Archive | "Dolphins Cancer Challenge"

Dolphins Cancer Challenge Unites South Florida in Sylvester’s Fight Against Cancer

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Dolphins Cancer Challenge Unites South Florida in Sylvester’s Fight Against Cancer

Special to UM News

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (February 21, 2016)–With tears in her eyes, Yatta Estelle Bright stood at the finish line of Dolphins Cancer Challenge (DCC) on Saturday waiting for her friends to complete the 5K Run/Walk.

“I lost my husband Etienne to brain cancer just a few months ago,” said Bright, a clinical lab technician in Broward County. “The doctors and staff at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center were wonderful, and I want to tell them how much that support meant to both of us.”

It was one of countless emotional moments at Sun Life Stadium, as thousands of South Floridians whose lives have been touched by cancer came together to honor lost loved ones, celebrate victories over the disease, and raise funds for the leading-edge research taking place every day at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

The day offered something for everyone who wanted to enlist in Sylvester’s fight. The physical challenges included the 5K Run/Walk and a cycling routes ranging from 16 to 100 miles. The stadium grounds were filled with tents and displays offering games for kids, educational handouts for their parents, and water, snacks and massages for participants after they crossed the finish line. High-energy music from the stage inspired many to stop in their tracks and dance. The weather was cool and cloudy with an occasional light sprinkle, but the front moving through South Florida put the wind at cyclists’ backs in the home stretch, and nothing dampened the spirits of the determined cancer fighters.

“This is truly an amazing event,” said UM President Julio Frenk, speaking at the colorful green-and-orange Sylvester tent after the cyclists, runners, and walkers completed their personal journeys. “Cancer is a major health challenge, and a disease that is still stigmatized by some people. Fortunately, we are blessed with one of the leading cancer centers in the world. Our team at Sylvester is committed to delivering the best possible care, along with leading-edge research to conquer this disease.”

His wife, Felicia Knaul, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences, director of the Miami Institute for the Americas, and a breast cancer survivor, expressed her pride and gratitude for being both a member of the UM faculty and a Sylvester patient. “We are bringing the best science out of the laboratory and using it to benefit the entire region,” she said.

Record Participation

The sixth annual DCC – now the largest event fundraiser in the National Football League – set a new record, with 3,317 participants. More than $11.5 million has been raised since the DCC’s inception, and several changes have taken place over the past five years. What began as a two-day riding event called the Dolphins Cycling Challenge has evolved into an even more exciting single-day event called the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, with six course options for riders, a 5K run/walk and a live concert featuring top talent. Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge, both breast cancer survivors, performed Saturday. The inaugural DCC Celebrity Golf Tournament will tee off on Monday, April 4, at the Turnberry Isle Resort and Golf Club, and two Family Fun Fests will take place in the fall.

““The DCC continues to gain momentum, helping to accelerate our groundbreaking cancer research,” said Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, after completing the 100-mile Hurricanes Hundred ride.

“The turnout is great, and this incredible support really makes a difference to our research programs,” said Jonathan C. Trent, professor of medicine and co-director of the Musculoskeletal Center at Sylvester’s Sarcoma Medical Research Program, who rode with his wife, Sharon, and their daughter, Mia.

“Two days ago, one of my closest friends lost her mother to cancer, so she was in my thoughts as I ran,” said Pierre-Jacques Hamard, an associate scientist at Sylvester who in ran in the 5K Run/Walk.

DCC participants ranged from infants to seniors, including more than 700 University of Miami students, faculty, and staffers on Team Hurricane. UM’s new head football coach Mark Richt kicked off the Hurricanes Hundred loop.

“It was wonderful to see all the UM shirts as we rode,” said Joe Natoli, senior vice president for business and finance and chief financial officer, after completing the 100-mile route.

Hundreds of members of the Miami Dolphins organization also took part, including new head coach Adam Gase, President and CEO Tom Garfinkel, EVP and Director of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum, and DCC CEO Michael Mandich, as well as retired star players Dan Marino, Nat Moore, and Kim Bokamper, to name a few.

Other high-profile participants included  Jorge Perez, chairman of The Related Group and Marc Buoniconti, president of The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis and son of former Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti, all UM trustees, and Paul Castronova, co-host of Big 105.9’s “Paul and Young Ron Show.”

There were also plenty of volunteers from throughout South Florida who helped make the DCC a success, including Miami Dade College students Zedre Knox and Lisa Jean Francois.

“My mother Ruth died from breast cancer, and colon cancer took the life of my grandmother,” said Knox. “By volunteering, I can honor their memory.”

Supporting Family Members

JoAnn Goldberg, president of Sylvester’s volunteer Pap Corps, led a contingent of 215 participants from Palm Beach and Broward counties, including Alicia and Larry Kruger.

“My husband was diagnosed with an aggressive form of skin cancer,” said Alicia Kruger. “He received great treatment at Sylvester’s Deerfield Beach center, and I’m walking today on Larry’s behalf.”

A.J. and Casie Maggio completed the 72-mile Perfect Century ride in honor of their nephew Jovani Joseph “JJ” Maggio, who died in 2014 at age 4 from a childhood cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma.

“We need far more research into pediatric cancers,” said A.J. Maggio, who led off more than 15 participants from Sysco Food Services. “We want to support the cancer community and show everyone that we are strong like JJ.”

David Girard and his son, Dominick, were cheering the boy’s stepmother, Donna, and his sisters, Samantha and Sarah, who were cycling, walking, and running in memory of his mother, Yvonne, who died last November in Canada from throat cancer.

“She was treated and thought to be in remission, but her cancer returned,” David Girard said. “We really need to learn more about this disease.”

That’s the fundamental goal of the DCC, according to W. Jarrard Goodwin, Sylvester’s chief medical officer.

“The funds raised by DCC participants and supporters allow us to conduct a wide range of research projects while serving the community,” he said after his 35-mile ride. “Every year, I ride with my patients, colleagues, family, and friends who recognize the importance of the work we do.”

Later in the afternoon, the DCC came to a close with high-energy musical performances by Crow and Etheridge. Their concert celebration was presented by Pepsi on the Seminole Hard Rock Stage at the AutoNation finish line.

Reflecting on the day, Silvio Restrepo paused for a breath after completing the 5K run in memory of his grandmother, Angela Palacios, who died of skin cancer at age 56 in Honduras.

“This was the first time I took part in the DCC, but it won’t be the last,” he said. “It was very special to see so many people cheering as we headed to the finish line. I want to encourage everyone to join me next year.”

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Prepare for Your DCC Ride or Run

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Prepare for Your DCC Ride or Run

DCC.PrepYou’ve signed up, you’ve logged the training hours, and the big day—Saturday, February 20—is right around the corner. Taking on the Dolphins Cancer Challenge (DCC) to raise critical funds for cancer research at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center can be both an exciting and a challenging experience. Many of you have spent weeks or maybe even months training for this event. But the most important preparation should happen just days before. Here are a few tips about how best to prepare for the big day.

Seven days out, begin to taper off on your workouts. That week is all about resting your legs to make sure they’re ready to fire on all cylinders. Three days out, get your last good ride or run in. This gives you the confidence you’ll need. Two days out, it’s best to take the day off to store up all the energy you need in your legs. However, feel free to do a light workout the day before— just nothing too strenuous. But remember, save your energy because you’ll need it!

Pre-ride or run jitters often hit the night before, which can cut into your necessary sleep time. This is normal but keep in mind that the DCC is not a race and is meant to be a fun event. One day out, be sure to get enough sleep—a solid eight to 10 hours. This amount of sleep allows you to wake up with more than enough energy to get through the day.

When Saturday arrives, it’s time to fill up the tank. Fueling your body is a major key to success:


Regardless of what time your event starts, it’s wise to eat two to four hours beforehand. Great fuel consists of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, or complex carbohydrates. One to two hours before, eat a light snack such as low-fat yogurt or fruit. And just before you get ready to head out, fuel up with a quick piece of fruit or cup of fruit juice. These simple carbohydrates can give you a quick boost.


Since many will be pushing through a long ride, hydration is very important. Dehydration occurs quickly in the Miami heat and humidity, so fill up on the electrolytes and water throughout the ride and after the run. Another big key is fuel. Be sure to eat at the rest stops, whether it’s fruit, energy gels, cookies— you want to eat something to be sure you don’t hit a lull in your energy while on the road.


The ride or run is complete and you’ve pushed your body to its capacity. All your body wants to do is fill up the energy lost during the workout, so immediately after you finish, it is important to fuel yourself with a good meal. The best time to fuel up is within 15-20 minutes of completing the ride.

Although all these tips are very important to ensure your safety and success during the DCC ride or run, the most important tip to remember is to have fun! The DCC is a great event for participants of all ages to get out there and have a blast for a great cause—raising critical cancer research funds for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

If you’re still not signed up yet, please visit TeamHurricanes.org.

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Researcher Fights Cancer in the Lab and on the Run

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Researcher Fights Cancer in the Lab and on the Run

Special to UM News

Pierre-Jacques Hamard

Pierre-Jacques Hamard

“Being a cancer researcher is not only a job, it’s also a commitment to patients and the community,” says Pierre-Jacques Hamard, Ph.D., an associate scientist in the laboratory of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D. “That is why I am doing the 5k run at this year’s Dolphins Cancer Challenge.”

On a regular day in the lab, Hamard is studying the mechanisms driving leukemias, which are blood cancers. He’s particularly interested in a gene called PRMT5, what role it plays under normal conditions, and what it does in cancer cells. Eventually, he and his colleagues want to use PRMT5 as a target for new precision therapies because the gene has been shown to be over-expressed in a number of cancers. “The idea is, if we inhibit PRMT5 or the resulting protein with a small molecule, perhaps we can kill the cancer cells that depend on that gene to function,” he said.

The laboratory Hamard works in collaborates with a number of biotech companies to identify compounds that target this protein. “We already have small molecules that we can test in the lab on different systems and we have preliminary data showing that these compounds can slow down the proliferation of cancer cells,” he said. “Obviously, this is very preliminary and we need to confirm our findings in different systems, but it is very encouraging.”

Hamard is a co-author of a 2015 scientific paper that described the role of PRMT5 in normal, non-cancerous cells. “We found that PRMT5 is a very important gene for blood production in the body,” he said. “The question now is how can we treat leukemia patients without affecting the role PRMT5 plays in normal blood production?” Since PRMT5 is over-expressed in leukemia, scientists believe that cancer cells could be more dependent on this gene than normal cells, which might render them more sensitive to PRMT5 inhibitors, offering the clinicians a therapeutic window for targeting PRMT5.

This kind of research taking place at Sylvester is possible partly because of the funds received from the DCC. “I’m doing what I’m doing because of the patients and I want to discover new and better cures and therapies,” said Hamard, who also rode in last year’s DCC. “I love to show people that even we scientists, who have dedicated our lives to research, are also involved in events like the DCC. We are not only ‘lab rats;’ we are also passionate community members and we want to tackle cancer once and for all.”

To register for the DCC, which will take place on Saturday, February 20, please visit TeamHurricanes.org.

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Take These 10 Steps to Boost Your DCC Fundraising

Special to UM News

An important part of participating in the Dolphins Cancer Challenge  on Saturday, February 20, is raising vital funds for cancer research at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Remember that every penny raised by riders, walkers, runners and virtual participants goes to Sylvester and that’s what the DCC is all about. With two and a half weeks to go, now is your time to give your fundraising efforts one last push. Here are 10 ways to boost your fundraising:

1) Ask your friends, family, and coworkers
Asking for money is not easy, but consider this: by asking for a donation, you are inviting people to join the fight against cancer by supporting Sylvester’s innovative cancer research. Cancer has touched all of us in one way or another, so the mission of the DCC, and your commitment to supporting it, will resonate with everyone you ask.

2) Make your own donation
Reinvigorate your fundraising momentum by donating to your own team. Lead by example and encourage others to donate as well.

3) Aim high and be specific
Ask for a specific and larger amount from those you know can make bigger gifts. Don’t forget to specify that 100 percent of every dollar raised is donated to cancer research at Sylvester.

4) Expand your reach by using social media
Tag your friends and potential donors on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by using the hashtag #TeamHurricanes. Make sure to repost Sylvester’s DCC posts.

5) Send emails
Send emails to your network of potential donors directly from haku on the DCC website or draft your own message from your preferred email account. Include a link to your personal fundraising page. Sending periodic emails to your donor base is a great way to update them on your fundraising progress or training, and also to remind them to make a contribution if they have not done so already.

6) Include fundraising links in your email signature
In your personal and/or work emails, include a link to your personal fundraising page. Also consider including links to the websites of the DCC (DolphinsCancerChallenge.com) and Sylvester (Sylvester.org) for those who want to learn more about both organizations.

7) Ask about matching gifts
Ask your donors if their employers offer a matching gift program for an easy way to double the impact of their donation and strengthen the fight against cancer.

8) Host a fundraising brunch or dinner
Invite your friends, family, and coworkers to a brunch or dinner at your favorite local restaurant. Tell them why you are riding/running/walking in the DCC and ask them to support you by making a donation. And while you’re there, ask the restaurant to make a contribution as well.

9) Make a video
Make a short video explaining what inspired you to participate in the DCC or train for the big day and upload it to your team page as well as your social media channels. Ask your friends to share the video on their channels as well.

10) Meet in person
Catch up with your potential donors in person. They will appreciate the time you take to meet with them and your conversation will go a long way in motivating them to make a donation.

If you have not signed up for the DCC yet, make sure to do so as soon as possible by visiting TeamHurricanes.org.


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Researcher is Passionate About Sylvester

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Researcher is Passionate About Sylvester

Michael Samuels

Radiation oncologist Michael Samuels, who will ride in the DCC on February 20, said funds raised by the charity ride help Sylvester investigators get their research projects off the ground.

Michael Samuels, a radiation oncologist specializing in head and neck cancers at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been a passionate rider in the Dolphins Cancer Challenge since 2011. “I joined Sylvester in November 2010, and Jerry Goodwin, our chief medical officer, immediately encouraged me to sign up for DCC II and explained how important the event was for Sylvester,” Samuels recalled. “I agreed and participated in 2011. It was an incredibly exciting event, and I’ve been a part of it ever since.”

When Samuels signed up for the 100-mile ride in 2011, he had to train hard; he had not been on a bike since he was 18. Despite the odds, he not only finished, he also joined the 80-mile ride in 2012, bringing the total miles he rides each year to 180.

“There are many reasons why I’m so passionate about the DCC. What it does is crucial for Sylvester,” Samuels said. “Last year, the DCC generated $4.3 million, which went directly to research here at the cancer center.” Many of Sylvester’s investigators depend on DCC money for “pilot funding,” which gets their research projects off the ground and generates initial data that can be used to apply to funding sources outside of Sylvester.

“You can’t get an NIH grant in most cases or an important foundation grant without preliminary data,” said Samuels. He currently has two Sylvester grants to support tissue collection and to help fund the laboratory that performs the genetic analysis of the tissue. His team focuses on the genetic makeup of throat tumors caused by human papillomavirus and whether the virus could be re-activated under certain circumstances. Both grants were made possible by the DCC.

“Without the DCC, there is no way our team could get this important work done,” he said. “DCC strengthens the Sylvester research program in so many fundamental ways.”

But Samuels has another reason he’s a passionate DCC rider: “Anybody here has to ask herself or himself: how can I give back to Sylvester? Working here is a privilege—this is, by far, the most exciting environment I’ve ever been a part of. So the question is: how can I go above and beyond?”

For Samuels, participating in the DCC also demonstrates a different level of commitment. It allows him to go to people who support him and to his patients with a compelling reason to become part of the Sylvester team. “They usually say yes with enthusiasm,” he says. ”Any success I have had with DCC comes because those around me are amazingly generous. And by the time of the event, we all feel great about what we’re doing.”

Summing up his passion, he says, “When I see the impact, the research team using the funds, and understand the ultimate benefit to our patients—how could I not participate?”

To sign up for this year’s DCC on February 20, please visit TeamHurricanes.org.


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