Monday, September 23

UCLA fellow cycles across country


Tour of hope ride lets Dolezal raise awareness for cancer research

The accomplishments of Milana Dolezal, M.D., an
oncology/hematology fellow at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive
Cancer Center, are enough to make anyone feel inadequate.

The six-time triathlete and 11-year competitive cyclist has
recently returned from her latest endeavor, participating in the
Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope ““ a 3,200 mile bicycle ride
across the United States.

An ardent athlete and passionate physician, Dolezal described
her experience on the Tour of Hope as the perfect union of her two
predominant interests: increasing awareness about cancer research
and a commitment to athletics.

Battling hilly terrain, 25 mph winds and stormy weather, Dolezal
was one of 26 cyclists to complete the national ride and contribute
to its mission of raising knowledge about cancer and the promise of
cancer research through clinical trials.

Chosen out of over 1,000 applicants from members of the cancer
community, Dolezal rode in the memory of her grandmother, a victim
of breast cancer, and in the quest to promote participation of
cancer patients in clinical trials.

“My grandmother,” whom Dolezal refers to as
“Babi”, the Czech word for “˜grandmother,’
“was my inspiration, my motivation to keep going,” she
said.

The loss of the grandmother who helped raise her gave Dolezal a
first-hand experience with the devastating consequences of cancer,
and, as she explained, reinforced her decision to pursue a career
in cancer research.

Dolezal also participated in the Tour of Hope to help promote
awareness of cancer treatment through clinical trials. Essentially,
clinical trials are research studies that test new methods of
administering new treatments, old treatments and new combinations
of drugs.

While clinical trials are responsible for medical breakthroughs
such as Herceptin, which targets breast cancer, and Gleevec, a pill
that combats adult leukemia; less than 5 percent of adults
diagnosed with cancer are willing to participate in research
trials.

Dolezal would like to see an increase in these numbers, and
stresses that “clinical trials are necessary to improve the
medicines we’ll be using on our grandkids.”

Dolezal, raised in Bethesda, Md., began her career when she was
18, at the National Institute of Health in Maryland, where she
worked in cancer research as a work-study student.

Now, at 32, the Santa Monica resident is currently in her second
year of fellowship at the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center, dividing her
time between in-patient work in a clinical environment and
researching new cancer treatments in the lab.

Dolezal has made it a career goal to stay in academics as both a
physician and scientist in order to pursue research of new
treatments ““ such as Herceptin and Gleevec ““ which do
not result in the serious side effects associated with traditional
chemotherapy.

“Coming from a quality of life standpoint, I would like to
both extend and enhance life through antibody agents,”
Dolezal said.

The Tour of Hope kicked off on Oct. 11 from Universal City Walk
with an emotional ceremony and send-off led by five-time Tour de
France winner Lance Armstrong.

Traveling relay-style cross-country, the team’s route led
through many states including California, Arizona, New Mexico,
Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio,
Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Stops along the way included media events to promote cancer
research and to encourage people to sign the Cancer Promise, a
personal pledge to become educated about cancer.

Dolezal cites a media event at the National Institute of Health
in Maryland as one of her most memorable moments. She was given the
opportunity to present a speech and thank past mentors.

With a route longer than the Tour de France, the national ride
culminated one week later, on Oct. 19, in Washington, D.C.

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