GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Scientists say the Michigan State University Gran Fondo bicycling event is helping them make strides in curing skin cancer.
This year’s Gran Fondo starts in downtown Grand Rapids on Saturday. The annual event, now in its fifth year, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund skin cancer research.
MSU says the money has backed three “promising” studies: one into using a virus to kill melanoma cells, one into the link between obesity and increased risk for skin cancer, and one into a combination of drugs that could prevent melanoma from spreading.
Mike Hoekstra of East Grand Rapids has a strong connection to the event and the cause.
“I really enjoy biking. It’s a great way to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Michigan weather and take advantage of the trails we have,” he said.
He has completed marathons and triathlons, but said he enjoys biking the most. It’s just one of the reasons he’s looking forward to his 80-mile ride in the Gran Fondo.
“It’s a great ride. It’s a first-class event. The food is great, the people are great, the post-race party is outstanding and the cause is really important to me, as well,” Hoekstra said.
Shortly after completing his first Gran Fondo in 2014 at the age of 39, Hoekstra was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma — a form of skin cancer.
“I’m a skin cancer survivor,” he said. “I found a spot on my forehead about four years ago.”
The skin cancer is gone, but not Hoekstra’s passion for biking or raising money for skin cancer research at MSU’s College of Human Medicine. He has raised a couple thousand dollars for MSU — even though he’s a University of Michigan graduate.
“It’s something that goes beyond the rivalry and it’s important enough to me to even wear a Spartan jersey on TV,” he joked.