Piero Dalerba, MD is one of the six inaugural Velocity fellows, whose innovative research projects to solve cancer are being funded by the money raised from the Velocity ride.
What is it like to be a part of the Columbia team working on these important cancer efforts?
The opportunity to be part of such an exceptional research environment is both exciting and humbling. I am excited to have the possibility to design and conduct ambitious and transformative studies, in collaboration with colleagues that have developed exceptional expertise in cutting-edge areas of medicine and biotechnology. At the same time, I am incredibly humbled when faced with the responsibility of advancing medical knowledge and transforming clinical practice for patients who are today in a state of great pain and suffering. These two feelings summon in all of us a desire to aim high and, at the same time, command us to work very hard. To quote a line from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, we don’t want to “throw away our shot."
How will the funds from Velocity help move your research project forward?
The financial support from the Velocity award is absolutely critical, as it will enable us to lay the foundation for “pilot” studies (i.e. studies based on novel and exploratory ideas, for which conventional funding is often not available). The Velocity awards, literally, accelerate the progress of our research, because they enable us to rapidly test new ideas, building the foundation onto which new discoveries are made. From there, we can develop these ideas into fully fledged proposals that will hopefully be supported through additional grants governmental agencies. In my specific case, the Velocity award will enable the testing of a new predictive assay for families who are at increased risk of breast cancer, which could help them decide whether to opt for a double mastectomy when first diagnosed with the disease.
Why did you initially participate in Velocity and why are you participating again?
At first, as a member of the scientific community of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC), I felt that it was my duty to participate. Since the event is designed to raise funds for cancer research, my participation directly supports the important work of friends and colleagues. In addition to this motivation, I would say that today, I also look forward to the pleasure of an exceptionally festive day where all members of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) community, including patients and their families, come together to enjoy each other’s company.
Was there a particular challenge/triumph about the last ride that stands out for you as inspirational?
The most inspirational memory of last year’s ride was to see CUIMC cancer patients, who were participating in the ride in honor of friends and families, sprint ahead of me and effortlessly climb the hills leading to Hudson River Palisades. I recall thinking: “What a marvelous celebration of their resilience and, at the same time, what a reward to all the members of CUIMC’s professional community who cared for them and made this joyful moment possible.”
What was it like to be a part of the Velocity ride?
Taking part in the Velocity ride is an amazing experience, as the event is designed to be inclusive and festive. The four parallel rides along the same track of varying distances, from 10 miles up to 62.5 miles, allows for people of all athletic backgrounds to participate. All riders wear Velocity jerseys and are grouped in 4 different colors (based on the length of their ride) and eventually “merge” in a colorful kaleidoscope of bicycles. After having crossed the magnificent Hudson River on the George Washington bridge, all riders are cheered to the finish line on the CUIMC campus, where food trucks and music await them, until the evening sets.
How many miles are you riding this year? What are you doing to train this year? Will you be participating in any of our upcoming training rides?
I am planning to ride for 10 miles (Blue Riders), and I hope to be able to attend one of the training rides dedicated to conquer the famous “Palisades Push”.
What are you looking forward to most about Velocity?
I am looking forward to spend a joyful day in the company of family and friends, while celebrating the scientific achievements of my colleagues, the generosity of the donors who empower our research, and the courage of our patients.
Why should others consider participating in Velocity?
Taking part in the Velocity ride is an opportunity to spend a joyous day outdoors and, at the same time, strengthen the bonds that unite all of us in our mission to create a better, cancer-free future.