Dr Helen Mott, group leader at the Department of Biochemistry, and Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Centre, is calling on people of all ages and abilities – from seasoned cyclists to recent converts – to sign up for the charity’s Cycle 300 challenge.
She will take part in Cycle 300 with her colleague, PhD student Jasmine Cornish, who has recently taken up cycling.
Participants can choose how, when and where to clock up 300 miles on a bike in September to raise money for life-saving research.
Dr Mott, a keen road biker, is keen to show how pedal power can make a crucial difference to people diagnosed with the disease.
She said: “I love getting on my bike and regularly cycle for 30 miles on a Sunday. It is great for fitness and really makes you appreciate how beautiful the area is as you see everything much more clearly than if you were travelling by car.
“We are fortunate that so much has been done around Cambridge to encourage cycling, with the path next to the Cambridge Guided Busway that is great for families to cycle off the road, and of course as a scientist I have to mention the DNA path from Addenbrooke's Hospital to Great Shelford!
At the Cambridge Centre Dr Mott is a member of the Cell and Molecular Biology Programme and leads molecular research studying the proteins involved in signalling in cells which determine whether they move and divide, which can cause cancer.
She explained: “Our work involves understanding how proteins are switched on and off in response to the signals.
“That research helps us design inhibitors to prevent the proteins causing cell growth and changes, which is the first stage in drug development to treat cancer.”
Helen explained that one of these proteins is involved in 30% of colon cancers as well as 80% of pancreatic cancers - an area of research that she has a particular interest in as her father died from the condition in 2004.
She said: “Pancreatic cancer is usually found too late. My father died at 64 but his pancreatic cancer was only discovered because he had secondary tumours in his liver.
“I think my family experience has influenced the area of research I’m working in and I am delighted to lead a team which is working hard to create better treatments for cancer patients.
“I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to sign up to Cycle 300 and raise money because they will be helping to get Cancer Research UK’s vital research back on track after the impact of the pandemic.”
There are many ways for fundraisers to hit the 300-mile mark and maintain social distancing.
Cycling is growing in popularity as an alternative to public transport for trips to the shops or workplace. Homeworkers can clock up the miles on an indoor exercise bike and families are discovering the joy of cycling together, with trips on bicycle routes to local beauty spots.
There is also the added benefit of getting on a bike to keep fit and healthy. Depending on weight and effort, participants could burn roughly between 400 to 750 calories per hour of cycling.
Patrick Keely, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for East of England, said: “We are very grateful to Dr Mott for her support and hope it will start a chain-reaction, sparking the interest among cyclists of all ages and abilities.
“Cycle 300 is the perfect opportunity to combine all the benefits of cycling, the thrill of a physical challenge and the fantastic sense of achievement from raising money for a great cause, all at the same time.
“It is a great fundraising challenge because you can choose how, when and where to do it, to fit in with your lifestyle and commitments. Every mile counts, whether you choose long rides through the rolling countryside or clocking up miles on an exercise bike in front of the TV.”
Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Cancer Research UK currently funds around 50 per cent of all publicly funded cancer research in the UK.
However, as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, promising projects which could have the big answers to cancer are being held up.
Patrick continued: “COVID-19 put so much of our research on pause and the cancellation of fundraising events, as well as the temporary closure of our Cancer Research UK shops, has left the charity facing an income crisis where every day and every pound counts.
“With around 35,000 people diagnosed with cancer each year in East of England, we will never stop striving to create better treatments. But we can’t do it alone. That’s why we are encouraging as many people as possible to sign up to Cycle 300 and use pedal power to help research move forward.”
To sign up now for a free fundraising pack visit www.cruk.org/cycle300
To donate to Helen's Cycle 300 fundraising page visit https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/team/gproteins