Bicycles are ubiquitous on college campuses across the country, so Sarah Manz ’19 blended in perfectly as she pedaled to her lab at the Ohio State University this summer. But Manz was using her wheels to do more than just commute; she was simultaneously training for Pelotonia, an annual long-distance bike ride and fundraiser for cancer research.
Manz, a biochemistry major from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, was one of six Kenyon students picked to spend 10 weeks this summer studying at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, commonly known as the James. Students received stipends of $3,500 to live on OSU’s campus in Columbus and conduct cancer research alongside faculty members and graduate and postdoctoral students. In her cancer immunology lab, Manz helped engineer a type of immune cell — called a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell — that could recognize and kill tumor cells.
“Right now in immunology, there are a lot of clinical trials being carried out,” Manz said. “It’s been a really exciting and rewarding experience to be at the start of where that all happens in the lab.”
In addition to conducting research, the Kenyon students attended workshops and meetings throughout the summer. On July 27, the program’s last day, the students shared their research with an audience including Michael Caligiuri, CEO of the James.
“The partnership with OSU’s Comprehensive Cancer Center has had a direct impact on Kenyon students,” said Maureen Tobin P’20, senior associate director for graduate school and career advising, who coordinates the now six-year-old partnership. “Their Pelotonia-funded research has launched them on to positions in health reform as well as to top-notch medical schools and graduate programs from the University of Pennsylvania to Dartmouth and beyond.”
Finding a cure for cancer is personal for Manz, whose uncle Bob was diagnosed with mesothelioma last fall. After watching him fight through chemotherapy, Manz was inspired to take action against cancer, both in the lab and on the road. The miles she logged biking across OSU’s campus this summer, paired with longer rides around Columbus, prepared her for her upcoming 100-mile ride with Pelotonia.
“After seeing how hard [chemotherapy] can be, I think it stressed to me the importance of research in the field of immunology and harnessing the body’s own defense system to fight cancer,” Manz said. “At the same time, my dad is very much into biking. When I told him that I was doing this [research] program, he brought up the bike ride, and it seemed like the right thing to do.”
Manz and her father, James, will join about 8,000 other cyclists who are riding in Pelotonia on Saturday, Aug. 5, and Sunday, Aug. 6. Most routes start in Columbus, and longer routes end at Kenyon, which recently extended its partnership with Pelotonia through 2020. Riders completing the 135- and 180-mile routes stay overnight on Kenyon’s campus before setting off for the second-day finish line in New Albany.
The Manz duo, clad in special “Team Bobber” jerseys, are part of Kenyon’s 13-member peloton, which includes faculty, staff and alumni. Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman captains the peloton and is returning for his sixth year of riding. His wife, Professor of Sociology Marla Kohlman, was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and successfully went through treatment at the James.
“I continue to ride as a way to show support to the people that provided such great care to my wife during her battle with cancer,” Kohlman said. “People I know continue to be touched by cancer, so I want to continue to support the effort to end cancer.”
Since its start in 2008, Pelotonia has raised nearly $144 million for the James. Cyclists pledge to raise between $1,250 and $2,500, depending on the length of their route. Every dollar supports cancer research at the James.
In addition to Manz, this year’s Pelotonia scholars include:
Rebecca Allen ’19; biochemistry major; West Chester, Ohio
Matthew Wyatt Cole ’19; biochemistry major; Winnetka, Illinois
Ellen Corcoran ’18; biochemistry major; Rocky River, Ohio
Hannah Lorico Hertz ’19; molecular biology major; Davis, California
Abby Wilson ’19; molecular biology major; Westerville, Ohio
Kenyon’s 2017 Pelotonia scholars pose with James CEO Michael Caligiuri.