Announcing the Tadej Pogačar Cancer Research Foundation
The Tadej Pogačar Cancer Research Foundation was founded to expand on promising, but underfunded research in cancer metabolism, which we believe is the key to fighting the disease. Specifically, we will seek out and fund novel research targeting the synergy of exercise, metabolism, and cancer treatment, and how exercise can increase survival for people battling cancer today. We are dreamers, we are fighters, we will never give up – if it is possible to win the Tour de France, we believe The Tadej Pogačar Cancer Foundation can help find a cure for cancer.
About the Foundation
Tadej Pogačar is a two-time Tour de France champion cyclist from Slovenia, the 2nd youngest-ever winner of the race and multiple Olympic medalist. He is a member of the UAE Team Emirates professional cycling team and is ranked the No. 1 cyclist in the world. He became interested in the field of cancer metabolism after work with his coach, Dr. Iñigo San-Millán, a world-leading researcher in the field. Tadej is proud to launch the Foundation and is highly committed to our mission and will bring the full focus and drive of his profession and brand to meet our goals. Read more about Tadej on his new personal web site.
Dr. Iñigo San-Millán is a researcher in the School of Medicine at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. He has also worked over the past 26 years with professional teams and elite athletes worldwide across many sports, including soccer, cycling, football, basketball, track and field, rowing, triathlon, swimming, and Olympics. He is a pioneer in developing new methodologies for monitoring athletes at the metabolic and physiological level. Since the end of 2018, he has served as Tadej’s personal physiologist and coach during the winning of back-to-back Tour de Frances. Currently, he is the Director of Performance for Team UAE Emirates cycling.
In 1923, Nobel Prize Laureate Dr. Otto Warburg discovered the first transformation of a normal cell into a cancerous one, characterized by a profound metabolic disturbance eliciting exacerbated glucose utilization and lactate production (later called the Warburg Effect). During that time, most cancer research was focused on cancer metabolism. However, in 1953 Watson and Crick discovered DNA, which completely changed the direction of cancer research and the Warburg Effect, along with cancer metabolism, were abandoned for decades. Since then, the path to understanding and curing cancer through genetics has been “remarkably unhelpful” according to Watson. The lack of progress through cancer genetics to cure cancer has led to a renewed interest in the Warburg Effect and a recent renaissance for cancer metabolism research.
In 2017, after extensive work with elite athletes in the area of exercise metabolism, Drs. Iñigo San-Millán and George Brooks developed and published a novel hypothesis which they believe explains the meaning and purpose of the Warburg Effect for the very first time. According to their hypothesis, a dysregulated production of lactate by cancer cells controls the expression of mutated genes in cancer.
At the end of 2018, Tadej began to work with Dr. San-Millán, as his personal coach. San-Millán soon saw in Tadej a diamond in the rough, with an amazing physiology and metabolism he recognized could win the Tour de France. Shortly after, in 2020, at the age of only 21, Tadej became the youngest cyclist ever to win the race, and then winning the Tour again in 2021.
Tadej’s physiological and metabolic parameters are among the best ever recorded in humans. It is difficult to understand imperfection if we don’t understand perfection in the first place and through the lessons learned from studying the perfect metabolism of elite athletes, like Tadej, it is possible to understand imperfections in cellular processes that can lead to multiple diseases, including cancer. Specifically, the study of elite athletes and their metabolism has allowed a better understanding of the mode of action of cancer at the cellular level by comparing perfectly functioning mitochondria in these top athletes versus imperfect functioning in other people. “The exciting thing is that endurance athletes have their mitochondria working perfectly. In patients with diabetes or tumors, however, the mitochondria malfunction,” explains San-Millán. Without extensive work with athletes in exercise metabolism, it would have been impossible for San-Millán and Brooks to discover and report on, like Warburg already had almost 100 years ago, that the dysregulation of cancer cells could be due to a mitochondrial “injury” of cancer cells.
Drs. San-Millán and Brooks have continued to work on their hypothesis and in 2019 they discovered that lactate is an oncometabolite, metabolites whose great quantity are elevated in tumors compared with normal cells, and capable of controlling the expression of the most important genes involved in a type of breast cancer. According to them, dysregulated lactate (not the same one generated during exercise) is a key element in cancer formation and tumor progression.
Discovering this, San-Millán’s group at the University of Colorado is focusing on targeting cancer metabolism and different metabolic pathways to stop cancer growth and proliferation (shown below), while developing novel diagnostics and therapeutics targeting cancer metabolism.
Other groups around the world are now also focusing on cancer metabolism, believed to be the final frontier to corner cancer. However, many times novel ideas in cancer and medical research don’t always have support in the beginning and funding sources are scarce. Cancer is a disease that is in critical need of new thinking, and new funding sources to continue the advancement in novel cancer research are desperately needed.
Foundation Vision & Goals
– The Tadej Pogacar Cancer Research Foundation will be instrumental in the field of research in cancer metabolism, a breakthrough field began in 1923, but forgotten for sixty years and that is now experiencing a renaissance.
– The Tadej Pogacar Cancer Research Foundation will prioritize the most innovative concepts in cancer metabolism and will fund multiple research groups around the world with the aim to develop novel diagnosis and therapeutics to contribute to help finally corner cancer.
– The area of exercise oncology is receiving significant attention in recent years as the effects of exercise for both cancer patients and survivors seem to be significantly beneficial. “Exercise as medicine” may elicit significant improvements at the metabolic level, which could improve cancer outcomes and improve survivorship.
– It has been established exercise can reduce risk of cancers, but the mechanisms by which exercise can improve cancer outcomes and be used as a therapeutic needs further study. Individualized prescription of exercise may be of great importance to achieve the ideal benefits as a therapeutic component in cancer patients and survivors.
Learn more about our area of research:
Is lactate an oncometabolite? Evidence supporting a role for lactate in the regulation of transcriptional activity of cancer-related genes in MCF7 breast cancer cells.
San-Millán, I., Julian, C. G., Matarazzo, C., Martinez, J., & Brooks, G. A. Frontiers in Oncology. 2020 Jan 14;9:1536.
Reexamining cancer metabolism: lactate production for carcinogenesis could be the purpose and explanation of the Warburg Effect
Iñigo San-Millán, George A. Brooks,
Carcinogenesis, Volume 38, Issue 2, February 1, 2017, pp. 119–133
Why the Tour de France could be useful for cancer research
Der Tagesspiegel, July 3, 2021
Metabolomics: The Science Behind a Tour de France Winner
Drug Discovery World
Cancer as a mitochondrial metabolic disease
Seyfried, T. N. Frontiers in cell and developmental biology. 2015 Jul 7;3:43.
Understanding the Warburg Effect: The Metabolic Requirements of Cell Proliferation
Matthew G. Vander Heiden et al.
Science 22 May 2009, Vol 324, Issue 5930, pp. 1029-1033
Metabolism and cancer: the future is now
British Journal of Cancer, Volume 122, December 10, 2019, pp. 133–135
Fundamental cancer metabolism dogma revisited
Massachusetts General Hospital Press Release, March 22, 2022
Exercise—A Panacea of Metabolic Dysregulation in Cancer: Physiological and Molecular Insights
Steffen H. Raun, Lewis C. Cantley, and Craig B. Thompson
International Journal of Molecular Sciences, April, 2021; 22(7): 3469.
Molecular Mechanisms Linking Exercise to Cancer Prevention and Treatment
Pernille Hojman, JulieGehl, Jesper F.Christensen, and Bente K.Pedersen
Cell Metabolism, Volume 27, Issue 1, 9 January 2018, pp. 10-21
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