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Oncotarget

Interview: Open Access Captain Talks Ride for Roswell, Impact of COVID-19 on Cancer Research

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Ride for Roswell, an annual fundraiser that welcomes thousands of cyclers to help raise donations for cancer research. The 2020 edition, dubbed the Summer of the Ride, was altered due to risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fundraiser became a month-long journey of participants making their own ride or attending hosted Saturday and Sunday events each week from August 1 through August 21. 

For the past three summers, Impact Journals has sponsored the Open Access team. The peloton was captained by Sergei Kurenov, who is the Director of Surgical Simulation at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center — one of the leading cancer treatment and research centers in the nation. Impact Journals publishes open-access medical journals, including Oncotarget and Aging.

Following the Summer of the Ride, we asked for his thoughts on the experience this year and about leading one of the over 600 teams that rode to raise over $3.6 million in the fight against cancer amid a global pandemic.  

Sergei Kurenov

Below is the transcript of the brief interview with Sergei.

Sergei, please tell us more about the great work you do at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Kurenov: One of my primary duties is the development, creation, and implementation of innovative diagnostic and surgical pre-planning software based on 3-dimensional CT or MRI imaging. 

With this software, surgeons from different specialties can better assess their patients’ cases, establish a more accurate diagnostic, and create surgical intervention plans before surgery by simulating different operative scenarios. 

Furthermore, computer-assisted simulations created with this software help patients to clearly understand their procedures by visualizing anatomical organs and key steps during the surgery. 

Tell us about your involvement with the Ride for Roswell. How long have you been a participant?

Kurenov: I joined the Ride for Roswell in 2016 and since 2018, I’ve been participating as an “Open Access” team captain. Three years ago, when I rode a bike, the team name idea would occasionally come to me.  

Tell us about Team Open Access.

Kurenov: In my development, I mostly use open source software, which helps developers and scientists build better software. As with software development in cancer research, open access journals play a tremendous role in the fight against cancer because they provide fast, reliable, and free scientific information. 

Our Ride for Roswell team is supported by two open source cancer-related scientific journals: Oncotarget and Aging. Both journals publish a lot of important cancer research.

Each year, our team has grown. This year we had 8 team members, ranging in age from 8 to 64. 

What makes this event so special to you? What would you tell others who may have never heard of the Ride for Roswell?

Kurenov: I participate in the Ride for Roswell because I want to support and speed up research for the cure of different types of cancer.  I have a personal connection to oncology because my father died from lymphoma.  

To those who may have never heard of the Ride, I’d say it’s a lot of fun to ride together with thousands of people. Every time I participate in the ride, I feel like a member of a great, tremendous team that can make everything possible by doing important work together. Even with all the changes that were needed this year, I knew I was part of something bigger that our whole community was supporting. 

Do you have any pre-ride rituals or superstitions (maybe a specific meal, stretches, music you listen to, etc.)? 

Kurenov: Every ride starts with the performance of the national anthem. After that, all riders cheer on cancer survivors, reminding us of exactly why we participate. 

What do you think of while riding, and why?

Kurenov: I think that during the fundraising and the actual ride, people simply forget about politics and other problems that can separate us as a country and community. With this event, people are simply helping each other, contributing to something meaningful, and the ride helps us to connect in a productive and communal way. 

How do you feel after the ride: What’s the first thing you do? What’s your greatest takeaway?

Kurenov: After every ride I feel, “Done. I did it!” This has a great impact for me. 

In your experience and opinion, how has the pandemic affected cancer research and cancer patients during this time?

Kurenov: Unfortunately, the pandemic has highly affected cancer research. We’re pretty much back to normal operations at the cancer center now, but some of our studies were delayed during the height of the pandemic.  

Why is donating to cancer research more important than ever, in the context of COVID-19?

Kurenov: Cancer doesn’t know about pandemics. Cancer doesn’t stop for viruses. And cancer patients are seeking proper treatment and help all the time. These patients need community support and funds now more than ever as they face a cancer diagnosis and journey during a pandemic.

Give us your best promotional pitch for folks to join Team Open Access in 2021.

Kurenov: I’m a Beatles fan so I would say, “Come Together!” Together we can do everything. Only together can we fight cancer. 

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