CLEVELAND — Just 25 days now until thousands of riders -- including Team WKYC -- jump on their bikes and pedal their way to a cure with Velosano. Every dollar raised through Cleveland Clinic's event goes straight to cancer research happening here in Northeast Ohio.
We wanted to see that research in action, so Dr. Justin Lathia allowed Channel 3’s Sara Shookman and cameras inside his lab.
“It takes a lot of resources to do cutting-edge science and Velosano funding is extremely valuable in that,” said Lathia, a biologist trained in cellular and molecular medicine who serves as Vice Chair in the Lerner Research Institute, leading his own team of researchers.
These probably aren't the hallways you've seen at Cleveland Clinic. They are the ones where cures are born.
“The honest truth is I spend probably 50- to 75-percent of my time trying to get funding to make sure that we can execute our idea. You know everyone has great ideas but the issue is how do we get them funded?” said Lathia. "Velosano gives us a strategic advantage. It fills the gap that a lot of us have in terms of our projects."
Brain tumors are Lathia's focus, particularly glioblastoma.
“This is the brain tumor that Ted Kennedy had, that John McCain had,” he said. “And this tumor type is it's as bad as it can get.” Only three-percent of those diagnosed are survivors five years later.
His team just completed a Phase 1 clinical trial at Cleveland Clinic, based on work initially sponsored by Velosano. Those funds often work as a multiplier, to attract outside grant funding.
Lathia's team of scientists, neurosurgeons, lab techs and students are working within immunotherapy – trying to harness the body's immune system to fight cancer and win.
“If you think about the immune system there's two arms. One is to detect foreign invaders and attack them and eliminate them. But how do you know when to stop? It's that second arm, that suppressive arm, so those two [arms] are constantly in balance,” he said.
This trial is targeting the immune suppression in 11 patients. “We've treated a series of patients with low dose of a known chemotherapy that actually kills the suppressor cells, and we've been able to demonstrate that when we do that, we change the immune system repertoire, the immune system composition in the brain.”
Incredibly, the lab is tracking progress down to changes in a single cell, using the data to understand how to save more lives in the future. The National Institutes of Health is investing in its findings – snowballing the work that started with Velosano. Even Dr. Lathia suits up for the ride.
“None of that would have been possible without Velosano,” he said.