When Dr. David Jones packed his bags for this year’s OK Freewheel event, he included supplies that you might expect for someone going on a week-long bicycle ride: water bottles, helmet and extra tire tubes for those inevitable flats.
But he also added a few other items that you probably won’t find in his fellow riders’ luggage: a tie, a freshly pressed pair of khakis and a presentation about cancer research.
This week, Jones is joining approximately 1,000 other riders as they cycle across the state on a route that stretches more than 400 miles from Hollis to Fort Smith, Ark. But on three of the seven days of the ride (which began June 7 and will end June 13), when he’s finished cycling, Jones is heading to nearby communities to deliver talks about the cancer research he’s performing at OMRF.
“I can’t think of a better way to learn about my new home state than by riding from one end of it to the other,” said Jones, who moved to Oklahoma City from Utah last summer. “But at the same time, it also gives me a chance to tell people who might not be able to visit OMRF about the exciting things we’re doing.”
At OMRF, Jones and his research team are developing new methods to treat and prevent colon cancer. “We focus on the idea that these cancer cells are confused about their identity,” said Jones, who holds the Jeannine Tuttle Rainbolt Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at OMRF. “So we’re working to develop new ways to restore what I’d call their ‘normal thinking.’”
In Altus on Saturday evening, he told a group about this research and other initiatives at OMRF, where scientists are also exploring new approaches for treating breast and ovarian cancers. Much of that work, said Jones, is being done in partnership with the University of Oklahoma’s Stephenson Cancer Center, where Jones also serves as deputy director for translational research.
“The best part of this collaboration is that it enables us to bring experimental therapies to Oklahoma cancer patients,” said Jones.
By Wednesday, Jones, an avid cyclist who typically trains by riding 100 to 200 miles per week, will reach Ada. There, he’ll speak to another audience about his work, and he’ll do the same the following evening in McAlester.
With temperatures expected to reach the high 80s or low 90s each day, Jones knows that the hours of cycling each day—followed by nights spent camping in a tent—will leave him spent. Still, his biggest concern is not running out of energy before his talks.
“The hardest part will be finding a shower and getting cleaned up for an audience,” he said. “Otherwise, who’s going to believe that a sweaty guy in bike shorts can help find new ways to treat cancer?”