Multiple Myeloma Patients To Compete In Empire State Building Run-Up

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), a world-recognized leader in cancer research, has announced that it will once again have the honor of being an official charity partner of the Empire State Building Run-Up (ESBRU) Presented by Turkish Airlines Powered by Challenged Athletes, which will be held on Tuesday at 8 p.m. The MMRF Team for Cures consists of 25 charity runners, including four patients living with multiple myeloma. These participants will climb the 1,576 steps up the Empire State Building, united by a common cause: to find a cure for myeloma, which is today considered to be an incurable blood cancer.

The team is on track to raise close to $100,000 to benefit the urgent multiple myeloma research funded by the MMRF. Since 2011, when the MMRF first became a charity partner of the ESBRU the cancer research organization has raised over $2.7 million through this event to help drive innovative approaches to extend patients’ lives and accelerate finding cures. A pioneer in precision medicine, the MMRF seeks to find a cure for multiple myeloma by relentlessly pursuing innovation that accelerates the development of next-generation treatments to extend the lives of patients.

The ESBRU is hosted by Empire State Realty Trust, Inc. and staged by NYCRUNS. In the race’s 42-year history, nearly 8,000 athletes have earned the bragging rights of reaching the finish line on the 86th Floor Observatory, a quarter mile above Fifth Avenue.

“We are proud to once again be part of this iconic event, which is so emblematic of the MMRF focus on speed and innovation,” stated MMRF President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Giusti. “The funds that are raised and the awareness that is generated support the MMRF’s unique precision medicine model, which aims to provide every patient with the right treatment at the right time, and eventually, a cure.”

Running legend Meb Keflezighi (San Diego, Calif.) will join the MMRF efforts this year as an Ambassador of the MMRF Team for Cures at the event and will have the honor of starting the men’s elite race. Keflezighi, a four-time Olympian is the only person to have won the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon and an Olympic medal in the marathon (Silver Medal in 2004). Keflezighi has lost several family members to cancer, and through his involvement in this race with the MMRF, he aims to help raise awareness for multiple myeloma, a disease that is twice as prevalent in the African American community as it is in the general public.

One of the four multiple myeloma patients on Team for Cures is Sally Kalksma, 56, of Pine Beach, N.J., who is an internationally ranked “tower runner,” or competitive stair climber. In 2018, a year after her stem cell transplant, she was the only American woman to be invited to run in an elite field for the Eiffel Tower Vertical Race, another stair climbing race to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Kalksma began stair climbing 10 years ago, soon after she was diagnosed with myeloma; a few months later, she lost her husband to melanoma.

Three additional patients will join Team for Cures, including: Rick Birdoff, 60, of Chappaqua, N.Y.;  Anne Burleigh, 60, of Darien, Conn.; Richard Applebaum, 64, of Oceanside, N.Y.  Dr. Sergio Giralt, the Chief of Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Service at Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center, will also ascend the Empire State Building for the MMRF.

Additionally, for the first time this year, MMRF is joining forces with Amgen as a partner in Breakaway from Cancer®—a national initiative to increase awareness of important resources available to people affected by cancers like multiple myeloma. The MMRF’s Empire State Building Run Up team will be tracking their mileage before and after the run-up as part of the Breakaway Challenge—an app-based social movement that encourages people to get active in the fight to break away from cancer.

“We are honored that the MMRF is joining as a partner in Breakaway from Cancer®. This inspiring team of 25 MMRF charity runners will not only be taking on the Empire State Building Run-Up, they will also be raising awareness and funds through the Breakaway Challenge,” said Christophe Bourdon, vice president and general manager Oncology Business Unit at Amgen. “Every step up is a step together toward advancing research and innovation in multiple myeloma.”

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