Obliteride

Obliteride Wrap-up!

The 50-mile route

The 50-mile route

Over the last three months, Suzanna and I donned out bike jerseys and shorts, grabbed our bikes, and trained so we would be ready to ride 50 miles on Sunday, August 9th. Well, Sunday came around, the weather was sunny (but thankfully not too sunny), and Suzanna and I had a great time pedaling 50 miles in Obliteride 2015.

The dedication wall

The dedication wall

More important that the athletic challenge of riding 50 miles was the fund-raising. We used social media and a few emails—sorry if we annoyed you—to ask our friends and family to donate to the cause. And thanks to the generosity of our friends and family, we managed to raise $4000 for life-saving research at Fred Hutch. Thank you so much, donors, for your generosity.

 

The Ride

It was a truly great weekend. On Friday, was the kick-off party with food, drink, music, and a chalk board to write dedications for the event.

We arrived at Fred Hutch on Sunday just before 8:00 AM, unloaded the bikes from

Suzanna and Paul at the start

Suzanna and Paul at the start

the car, and made our way to the starting line. After the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, the ride started promptly at 9:00 AM and Suzanna and I took off along with several hundred other riders doing the 50-mile route. One of the best parts of the ride, was the fact that we got to ride together the whole way. We finished the ride with my hand on Suzanna’s shoulder as the announcer announced our arrival, adding the fact that Suzanna was a cancer survivor. Survivors, in fact, had special status all weekend which was a fitting touch. At the start, signs naming each and every survivor rider lined Fairview Avenue.

The survivor sign

The survivor sign

In all, over 1,000 riders participated in the event, raising (as of August 11th), over 1.8 million dollars for Fred Hutch! This number will undoubtedly go up between now and the end of September. What a great event for a great cause. We are so glad we could be part of Obliteride 2015!

 

 

 

Obliteride was a success because of all the generous donors. It’s not too late; you can still contribute to Obliteride until September 30th!

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Back to the Real World

In my work at Fred Hutch I collect and manage data on cancer patients.  Every day when I come to work, I have to temporarily suspend my empathy for the patients we study and disconnect my emotions or I’d lose my objectivity and quite possibly my mind and never get any work done. The people and their experiences we study become data points living in a database within a virtual world stored inside the computer network. They become statistics that we manipulate and report on to further science. This is a necessary requirement of doing research and getting the work done. Thus, most of the time when I work at Fred Hutch, I live in the abstract world.

Every so often, though, the reality of cancer thrusts me back into the real world like a cold slap across the face. Yesterday, for example, I learned that a friend in her forties who had been battling cancer for a number of years finally succumbed to the disease and died. Aletia wasn’t a close friend but she was someone I knew through our church and the school that my children attended.  A real person cut down in her prime by cancer, leaving behind two lovely girls and a loving husband.

Aletia’s death is also a reminder why working in cancer research is so important. Real people get cancer, real people suffer from it, and real people die. Lots and lots of people. From babies to 100-year olds and everyone in between. This is the reality of cancer and the reality of life. RIP, Aletia.

I’m riding Obliteride on August 9th to raise money for cancer research at Fred Hutch. Please consider donating to the cause.

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A Day in the Life of a Cancer Programmer

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research CenterI consider myself very lucky to have the privilege to work at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which we affectionately call Fred Hutch. I manage a small team of programmers in creating custom solutions to support the world-renowned research that is happening here.

In this post, I thought I’d give you an idea of what research projects I am personally involved with day to day, either in a programming/configuration/orchestration/maintenance role or in a management role.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that not all of the work we do at Fred Hutch is cancer related. Fred Hutch scientists also do research in infectious diseases, diseases of the immune system, and a few other disorders. Still, the bulk of the science being done here is cancer related.

So here are some of the projects I am currently working on…

1. My group at Fred Hutch serves as the clinical coordination and data management center for a multi-site study of an immune system disorder called Sjogren’s Syndrome. The goal of this study is to develop a panel of biomarkers to diagnose this disorder. We are responsible for the collection, quality control, and storage of clinical and laboratory data for this clinical trial. For this project, we use a electronic data capture system called REDCap, a laboratory system named LabKey, SAS, a few custom-built .NET programs to tie it all together, and SQL Server.

Image_782. I lead the programming team supporting a pair of trials looking at the accuracy of pathologists when diagnosing breast cancer and melanoma. Initial results of the breast cancer study made news when a controversial paper describing the results was recently published in JAMA. The system is built using ASP.NET MVC with an electronic slide viewer built using Silverlight.

vials-rack-192652743. I created and maintain a specimen repository that I first wrote using ASP.NET about 10 years ago. This system is used to track specimens– little vials of blood and tissue that are collected from study subjects and stored in super-cold freezers–for five different repositories, including repositories for leukemia and a rare disease known as Shwackman-Diamond syndrome.

4. My team maintains another ASP.NET-based system that tracks the logistics of running hundreds of clinical trials in AIDS treatment and prevention. This system also communicates to our funding agency at the National Institutes of Health on a daily basis using a web service client.

5. My team recently launched a new study that is looking at the effects of eating frequency on health. We helped build the data collection system (using REDCap) and a .NET console program that texts participants reminders to complete their daily food intake diaries.

6. We are working to build a website for a new study with pilot funding to improve the reliability of self testing for Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections in bone marrow transplant recipients. CMV is particularly dangerous in these patients.

Cholera7. I am helping to manage the data collection of a study that is attempting to extract information about cholera outbreaks in Africa using as the source data reports extracted from a public reporting system called ProMED. The goal of the study is to build models to better understand how this devastating disease spreads.

8. We manage the data collection for innovative research study to use acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to coach smokers over the telephone to quit smoking. Prior studies have shown ACT to be a promising technique to help smokers and others with addictions to stop these destructive behaviors.

9. I recently completed an online implementation of a scoring algorithm for use by oncologists who are trying to predict patient survival from hematopoietic stem cell transplants for leukemia and myeloma. The system was built using ASP.NET MVC and jQuery.

10. I lead a team that maintains a 8-year old custom-developed CATI (computer assisted telephone interviewing) program for our telephone interviewer team.

That covers most of the systems that occupy my time of late.The technology is not always bleeding edge but, in general, we try to stay current and forward thinking.

It’s a challenging job at times, especially when trying to juggle dozens of clients who are almost always on a short schedule with a even shorter budget. But boy, is it rewarding. I truly love my job and I hope you enjoyed reading a bit about it.

Obliteride_Logo_Horizontal_4CP_Regv2And finally (you knew there was a tie in), my wife Suzanna and I are riding our bikes 50 miles on August 9th to raise money for the wonderful and truly life-saving research being done at Fred Hutch. Won’t you please consider supporting the amazing work we are doing here by donating to my ride? Thank you.

donatenow1.jpg

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Running for Me but Riding for Them

Obilteride2013This past Saturday, Suzanna and I jumped on our bikes and rode 30 miles as part of our training for the 50 mile Obliteride bike ride on August 9th to raise money for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where I also happen to work. Then on Sunday, we drove up to Snoqualmie Pass, got off at the Hyak exit, and Suzanna dropped me off for a run through the Hyak tunnel and along the Iron Horse trail where we reunited after 21 miles. You see I am also training for my 11th marathon, the Light at the End of the Tunnel race on June 14th and I was running the first 21 miles of the course.

RuningOnTrack2013I am running the marathon in two weeks for myself and my goal to finally qualify for the Boston Marathon. Two years ago, I actually qualified at the Eugene Marathon but, alas, that was the year that the Boston Athletic Association dropped the qualifying times in September another minute and 38 seconds for the 2014 race and I no longer qualified. They dropped the qualifying times again for the 2015 race by 1:02 so who knows what the real eventual qualifying time will be this year for my age group. Anyway, it has always been a life-long goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon and I am hoping to do it in a couple of weeks.

On the other hand, I am riding Obliteride, not for myself, but for all those who’s lives have been affected by cancer.  So whether or not I qualify for Boston, I will continue my training and fund-raising for Obliteride and Fred Hutch. And as much as I want to do well in the maratObliteride_Logo_Horizontal_4CP_Regv2hon and qualify, Obliteride and cancer research is so much more important.

Won’t you please consider donating to my ride?

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Cancer Gets Personal

2014-05-11 08.35.41

Suzanna

As many of you know, I work at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (or simply Fred Hutch). It’s a very rewarding job knowing that I am helping scientists crack the code of cancer and save lives. But to be honest, when working in cancer research, it’s very easy to keep the suffering from cancer at a very distant, clinical, and safe distance from oneself. Hey, it’s just a job! (In reality, it’s not just a job, but I’ll save that for another post.)  But I have a more personal relationship with this thing called cancer.

Over twenty years ago my sister, Pat, had a close call with melanoma.

My dad had a pre-cancerous but serious disease of his throat called Barrett’s Esophagus. It got so serious for my dad that they had to surgically remove part of his esophagus in a quite painful surgery. (Fred Hutch is a world leader in Barrett’s Esophagus research, by the way.)

My cousin, Paul Kunzinger, who was born within a year of me, died of lung cancer in 2007 at the age of 49 leaving behind his wife and two lovely girls. (If you are interested, I wrote about Paul in a blog post back in 2009 while I was raising money for a different cancer ride.) Needless to say, his death was devastating to his family.

Cancer really hit home, however, when my wife, Suzanna, had a major scare when her only kidney (transplanted from her dad almost 20 years ago) was found to have a cancerous tumor on it a few months after we were engaged in 2010. It was very likely that she might lose her kidney in the battle and then what? I was certainly ready to give her one of mine but we didn’t know if I would be a good match. Fortunately, her kidney surgery was a resounding success and she was able to keep her kidney. She gets a scan every year to make sure it hasn’t come back. (Suzanna, who is also riding Obliteride this year, has written about her cancer battle in a series of posts on her blog.)

Suzanna and I are so so lucky that it worked out so well because, to be frank, we feared the worst. I’m sure we felt like many people who get the diagnosis of cancer. That’s why research needs to continue at world-class cancer research centers like Fred Hutch. And this is why Suzanna and I are riding Obliteride to raise money for Fred Hutch. I hope you can help.

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Kicking Off Obliteride 2015 Training and Fundraising

2015-05-16 13.56.27A couple of days ago I decided to join Obilteride 2015. I also participated in this fundraiser for the amazing place where I work back in 2013. This year, I am riding the 50 mile ride with my wife, Suzanna. Unlike many charity events, 100% of the money raised for Obliteride goes to fund the awesome work being done at the cancer research center that I work for, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. That’s right, since a number of sponsors are picking up the overhead to run the event, 100% of the money donated will go to directly to cutting-edge cancer research done at Fred Hutch; research aimed at curing cancer and reducing suffering from this horrible family of diseases.

I have to admit that I am very lucky to work at the world-renowned Fred Hutch alongside some of the brightest scientists in the world. Fred Hutch has done a lot of wonderful research in order to understand, prevent, treat, and yes, even cure cancer. The funds raised by Obliteride when combined with grant funds from the National Institutes for Health and other funding agencies will help Fred Hutch continue its pioneering research to help obliterate cancer.

So while I continue to train for the ride on August 9, I am hoping you will consider making a donation to my Obliteride campaign. Thank you!

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