Bikers Bringing Better Cancer Care to Cincinnati

Jon Keeling


A diagnosis of cancer for a loved one can be devastating. And finding out that they must travel to another city to seek treatment, away from their much-needed emotional support system, can be just as difficult.

The UC Health Barrett Cancer Center is working to bring world-class cancer treatment to Cincinnati – with the help of thousands of cyclists.

Together, Ride Cincinnati and Western & Southern Financial Group are teaming up to raise funds for the Barrett Cancer Center. Since it began 11 years ago, the event has raised more than $2.8 million that has funded 34 cancer
research grants.

“Ride Cincinnati is such a unique event,” says Dr. William Barrett, director of UC Cancer Institute and medical director of the UC Health Barrett Cancer Center. “Its purpose is to build comradery among people in our city who are passionate to reduce the suffering and mortality associated with cancer in our community.

“It is the ultimate definition of ‘team’ and very representative of the attitude in the cancer program. We want to improve cancer care for people in this region. No one wants this disease, but if you have to face it, we want Cincinnati to be the very best place in the world to be.”

One of the motivations of Ride Cincinnati is to have the Barrett Cancer Center recognized by the National Cancer Institute as part of its Cancer Centers Program.

“NCI designation is the highest third-party validation for an organization that has cutting-edge cancer treatment and research programs,” explains Dr. Barrett. “Earning this designation will be good for every health system in this region and will really raise the level of cancer care.

“The biggest difference between how we are operating now and how we will operate after the NCI designation will be the higher level of expertise we can attract.”

At academic medical centers like UC, teams of specialists are formed that focus on specific types of cancer and can easily communicate with each other while deciding on the best treatment approach for their patient.

“We have surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, diagnostic radiologists and pathologists working together and taking advantage of our very robust research center,” says Dr. Barrett. “They can quickly assess what’s working and what isn’t through clinical trials.

“Being an academic center pursuing NCI designation, we provide training for people and create an atmosphere where everyone is getting smarter every day. By bringing a lot of bright and curious people together in one place, the clinical care, education and discovery of optimal approaches improve.”

Ride Cincinnati plans to raise $500,000 this year and, in years to come, become a multimillion-dollar annual fundraiser.

“Research funding is very important to cover expenses when carrying out clinical trials as well as basic and translational research,” explains Dr. Barrett. “This allows these highly skilled people to test their ideas. When we get preliminary results, it allows us to gain traction for acquiring funding from large organizations, including the NCI.”

It’s no coincidence that Western & Southern is Ride Cincinnati’s title sponsor.

“The Barrett Cancer Center is named after our late father, Dr. Charles Barrett,” says John F. Barrett, chairman, president and CEO of Western & Southern and brother of Dr. William Barrett. “The NCI designation is a big deal for our city and will bring a ton of talented people to Cincinnati to work in the clinics.

“We want to make Cincinnati the smartest city in the world for cancer research, care and treatment.”

“The application for NCI designation is the most rigorous process in medicine and science, and we expect to apply in the next three years,” says Dr. Barrett.

“The primary purpose for the NCI designation is to raise the level of cancer care in the region,” says Dr. Barrett. “But it will also have an economic impact, as it will add a lot of jobs and draw in highly paid people who will buy houses and spend money in our community. It’s like adding a Fortune 500 company to Cincinnati.

“It will also add to our Cincinnati pride. We have a vibrant business community, a thriving arts community, major league sports teams, great schools and unique neighborhoods. World-class cancer research and treatment will be another thing we can be proud of.”

Ride Cincinnati participants gain pledges and support from friends, family and co-workers as they race towards their goal of $500,000. One hundred percent of every rider-raised dollar will benefit the Barrett Cancer Center.

Ride Cincinnati will take place on June 9-10, 2018, at Yeatman’s Cove.

For more information on the event and how to register, visit