Dr. Robert DeBernardo (left) and Dr. Ofer Reizes

Batman and Robin, Simon and Garfunkel, Abbott and Costello

It’s been said that two heads are better than one. When it comes to cancer research, one dynamic duo is moving the needle toward a world without ovarian cancer through a unique partnership. 

Robert DeBernardo, MD, is the section head of gynecologic oncology at Cleveland Clinic. He holds the Laura J. Fogarty Endowed Chair in Uterine Cancer Research in the Women’s Health Institute and is the Director of the peritoneal surface malignancy program. 

Ofer Reizes, PhD, is a staff researcher at the Department of Cardiovascular Metabolic Sciences at the Lerner Research Institute and holds the Laura J. Fogarty Endowed Chair in the Lerner Research Institute.  For the past seven years, Drs. DeBernardo and Reizes have been looking into the mechanisms behind hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), which involves a heated chemotherapy solution that has been shown to improve survival rates in women with ovarian cancer. 

Their collaborative research has earned them multiple grants from VeloSano, including the most recent round of 2022 Pilot Grants. VeloSano Pilot Grants provide seed funding for high-risk, high-reward cancer research activities that can quickly advance the development of revolutionary cancer treatments. 

“What’s unique about our research is that we’re close to our clinical colleagues,” says Dr. Reizes. “I’m a researcher, and my colleague Dr. DeBernardo is in the clinic taking care of patients. Our goal is to create new approaches to improve patients’ lives. That’s possible here at Cleveland Clinic because we’re so close; I mean, we’re literally a hundred yards apart.” 

“You kind of have to think in a big-picture way with global ideas and then test them,” says Dr. DeBernardo. “Instead of moving from bench to bedside, we’ve flipped this whole paradigm on its head. We had some data from clinical work that a particular way of treating somebody with ovarian cancer has a benefit, but we don’t know exactly why it’s working, and so we’re going from bedside to bench to find the answers.” 

Their work has produced promising results and has attracted funding from the National Institutes of Health as well as inclusion in an upcoming national clinical trial. None of which, they say, would have been possible without the seed funding from VeloSano. 

“Riding the 50-mile ride for VeloSano is very much like clinical research — it can be a grind,” says Dr. DeBernardo. “It doesn’t happen quickly, and it takes dedication.” 

“VeloSano is more than just a fundraising opportunity,” says Dr. Reizes. “It’s supporting a mission and a vision of bringing an end to cancer, and that is why I participated for 10 years in a row. Our vision is to change the way patients are treated, and it’s to end cancer as we know it.”