IU Simon Cancer Center doc/researcher bikes 207 miles in two days for multiple myeloma research; Dr. Abonour sets out Oct. 2


INDIANAPOLIS -- (Sep. 23, 2009) -- Two weeks after turning 50, Rafat Abonour will set out for the fifth consecutive year on his bicycle to raise awareness of multiple myeloma, an incurable but treatable blood cancer.

Abonour -- an oncologist and researcher with the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center -- will again undertake Miles for Myeloma, traveling 207 miles by bike from Evansville to Indianapolis.

Dubbed Trek for Treatment, this year’s Miles for Myeloma begins at 7 a.m. Friday, Oct. 2 in Evansville with that city’s mayor, Jonathan Weinzapfel, for a special send-off. 

From Evansville, Dr. Abonour will bike to Bedford, Ind. At 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, he will leave Bedford and head to Indianapolis. A finish-line celebration is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. in front of the Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis Campus Center, 420 University Blvd. All are invited.

From 2005 to 2008, Dr. Abonour -- an avid amateur marathon runner -- put his body to the test by both running and biking on consecutive days to raise money for his research devoted to finding a cure for multiple myeloma. This year, the distance is by far the most he has ridden for Miles for Myeloma.

And he plans to continue “as long as there are people fighting myeloma,” he said. “Any way that I can raise more awareness about the disease and funds to fight it, I think is a good idea, although my body doesn’t always think so.”

To date, Dr. Abonour has raised $1 million for multiple myeloma research. All of the funds are used by researchers at the IU Simon Cancer Center.

A person with myeloma, according to Dr. Abonour, is typically in their 60s. The cancer, which Dr. Abonour said will strike about 19,000 people this year, accumulates in bone marrow, weakening the bones and causing osteoporosis, anemia, and kidney failure. Myeloma also leaves people susceptible to infections because their immune system has been weakened.

Currently, Dr. Abonour and his colleagues are investigating a new drug, ENMD- 2076, which they have shown has killed myeloma cells. They are conducting a phase I trial with multiple myeloma patients to determine the toxicity and safe dosage of the drug.

“To succeed in finding a cure for myeloma, it’s going to take time. And obviously, that’s not good enough,” Dr. Abonour said.