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Armstrong Lends Fame to Cancer Ride

The five-time Tour de France winner joins 600 cyclists in the Tour of Hope, a cross-country marathon to raise support for research.

October 12, 2003|Daren Briscoe | Times Staff Writer

Five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong took to the road Saturday against cancer, the toughest opponent he ever faced and one he hopes research will vanquish.

A survivor of advanced testicular cancer, Armstrong, flanked in the morning chill by more than 600 other cyclists, mounted his bike at Universal CityWalk to anchor a symbolic first leg of the Tour of Hope, a cross-country marathon designed to raise cancer research awareness.

The tour began with a 62-mile fund-raising ride that participants qualified for by collecting $500 donations to benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which promotes improvements in the care and treatment of cancer patients.

To cover the remainder of the more than 3,000-mile trek, 26 of those cyclists plan to spend the next week pedaling day and night, riding shifts in which each rider will cover as many as 132 miles a day, until they reach Washington, D.C.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday October 18, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 70 words Type of Material: Correction
Clinical trials -- An Oct. 12 California section story about a cross-country bike marathon in support of cancer research mistakenly reported that cyclist Lance Armstrong participated in a clinical trial that helped rid his body of cancer. Armstrong did not participate in such clinical trials, although he does attribute his survival to people before him who participated in trials that led to the approval of the drugs that he received.

Once there, they will deliver thousands of pledges gathered from people who support cancer research as "a national health care priority" to the National Institutes of Health.

Dubbed the Tour of Hope Team and selected from more than 1,000 applicants, the cross-country cyclists include nine cancer survivors, doctors, nurses, caregivers and others with personal experience with the disease.

Among them is 35-year-old Jodi Gold, an amateur cyclist who in 2000, within two weeks of visiting her doctor after feeling lethargic at the starting line of a bike race, learned she had an inoperable brain tumor.

"I took the attitude that it was something that needed to be dealt with, not as a death sentence," Gold said after her 62-mile warmup for the long ride ahead.

Determined to survive but wary of debilitating chemotherapy, she chose to participate in the clinical trial of antineoplaston therapy, a nontoxic treatment.

Weeks later, a tearful Gold watched Armstrong win his second Tour De France, just four years after his own cancer diagnosis.

Armstrong, now 32, also chose to participate in a clinical trial that rid his body of the disease, but he and Gold are among the less than 5% of adult cancer patients who participate in such trials, according to Peter R. Dolan.

Dolan is chairman and chief executive of Bristol-Myers Squibb, which developed the regimen of drugs that Armstrong took, and which partnered with him to sponsor the tour.

Together, they hope to dispel some of the stigma surrounding clinical trials.

That stigma, said Milana Dolezal, 32, a hematology/oncology fellow at UCLA and another Tour of Hope cyclist, is something she encounters every day.

"In the past, experimental drugs were used on patients only after every other kind of traditional therapy had failed. Now, patients who use them get the best available care," said Dolezal, who is riding in memory of her grandmother, who died of metastatic breast cancer.

Armstrong, who plans to join the cyclists at various points along their route, described the tour as "a marriage of the two most important things in my life": his love of cycling and the obligation he feels as a cancer survivor to help raise awareness about cancer treatment.

"I've been given this position through a bicycle," he said.

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