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2022 UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge raises record $1 million for promising cancer research

Funds support early-phase research for adult and pediatric cancer

November 09, 2022
Joyous cyclists near the finish line of the 2022 UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge.

The sixth annual UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge held Oct. 8 in Aldrich Park on the UCI campus was the first time cyclists, runners and power-walkers were able to participate in person since 2019. Photos by Carlos Puma.

Irvine, Calif. — More than 3,000 participants, donors and supporters who joined the 2022 UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge on Oct. 8 helped raise $1 million for innovative cancer research.

All proceeds will support promising cancer pilot projects and early-phase clinical trials at the UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center based in Orange County. Through a special partnership with Children's Health of Orange County (CHOC), a portion of the funds will be dedicated to pediatric cancer research.

The record-breaking fundraiser greatly exceeded the peer-to-peer campaign total for 2021. In the previous five years of the annual ride, run and walk event, UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge participants had raised a total of $2.6 million for cancer research, which helped to jumpstart research that has garnered an additional $21.9 million in extramural grants awarded to UCI investigators.

“I am grateful for the overwhelming support we’ve received from our participants, donors and sponsors this year,” said Richard A. Van Etten, MD, PhD, the cancer center's director and UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge founder. “The support of our community and collaboration between more than 200 UCI researchers working tirelessly to conduct promising cancer research propels us closer toward our goal of preventing, treating and curing all forms of the disease.”

Event costs are underwritten by sponsors, ensuring that 100% of the funds raised by participants goes directly toward the cause. This year’s sponsors included LA Fitness, Club Studio, the Kay Family Foundation, Hensel Phelps, KTLA, the Anaheim Ducks, Dunkin’, Standard Drywall, Enclos, GSK, Bristol Meyers Squibb and Helio Genomics.

Runner reaches the finish line at the 2022 UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge.
An exultant runner crosses the finish line at the sixth annual UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge, which raised a record $1 million for early-phase research.

Held in person at Aldrich Park on the university campus in Irvine for the first time since 2019, riders arrived at 6 a.m. to prepare for the 14-, 35-, 60- and 100-mile bike routes. Each group was welcomed by UCI leadership including Van Etten, Michael J. Stamos, MD, dean of the UCI School of Medicine, and UCI Health CEO Chad Lefteris.

At the start of the 5K and 10K run/walks, country recording artist Rick Monroe sang the national anthem. He was joined by KTLA reporter and Orange County bureau chief Chip Yost, who served as emcee for the 2022 UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge opening ceremony.

The event also included a family-oriented festival hosted by UCI Health, where representatives of the UCI Alpha Clinic, the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute and the Digestive Health Institute connected with participants and shared information about their services.

During an awards ceremony following the activities, Andrew Edwards, founder and owner of the Anaheim Hills Saddle Club, was honored along with Dr. Thomas Ahlering, a UCI Health urologic cancer surgeon, for their dedication and support of cancer research.

Ronit Benjamin, volunteer chair of the 2022 UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge and its top individual fundraiser, called her involvement with the Anti-Cancer Challenge the last four years "truly soul-fulfilling," adding, "By honoring my father-in-law and grandparents, I’m helping others to live or have a better quality of life. Every word we speak and every action we perform affects our future, so I encourage everyone to join and make a difference!”

Throngs of volunteers walk to raise funds for cancer research at the 2022 UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge.
Throngs of volunteers walked to raise funds for promising cancer research at Aldrich Park on the UCI campus in Irvine on Oct. 8, 2022.

Jennifer Sarrail, executive director of the UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge, expressed gratitude for the overwhelming community support.

“We are grateful to each and every person who joined us for this year’s event, and we would like to especially highlight our Partners in Research for their generosity and support,” she said.

UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge Partners in Research are individuals, teams and corporations that raise or donate $50,000 or more. This year’s Partners in Research include Team Benjamin & Wagner, Team Grandma Marcia, Monster Energy Cares, Lynn Capouya, Team Michelle & friends and Hensel Phelps.

With the $1 million raised this year, the UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge funds will continue to support new projects that help investigators generate crucial preliminary findings that can lead to new breakthroughs in cancer treatment, like a new molecular compound that can block the spread of melanoma created in the lab of UCI Health physician-scientist Anand K. Ganesan, MD, PhD

The UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge is a community movement and annual ride, run and walk event to raise awareness and funds for cancer research at the UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and its pediatric cancer partner, CHOC. Every penny raised by participants goes to promising cancer research. For more information, visit www.anti-cancerchallenge.org.

The UCI Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is at the forefront of discovering new ways to fight cancer. As one of only 53 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, the center combines leading-edge research, clinical trials and world-class care for patients. In 2020 alone, more than 7,250 new patients benefited from the cancer center's advanced treatments.

UCI Health is the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine, and the only academic health system in Orange County. Patients can access UCI Health at primary and specialty care offices across Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center in Orange, Calif. The 459-bed, acute care hospital, listed among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 22 consecutive years, provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centerhigh-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn and Twitter.