Grove City resident Ryan Roberts participates in Pelotonia as an expression of gratitude.

Roberts, a pediatric hematology-oncology specialist at Nationwide Children's Hospital, is studying how cancer spreads to parts of the body in children.

"I think Pelotonia is one way our community has rallied to the cause of cancer," he said. "It's the support of the community that allows researchers like me to do our work."

As a practicing doctor who treats young cancer patients, Roberts said, he also supports Pelotonia because he is grateful for his health and the health of his family.

In his research, Roberts, 41, is focusing on osteosarcoma, or bone cancer.

"We have surgeries that can address the initial tumor," he said. "The problem is that this type of cancer so often ends up spreading to the lungs, and that's what ends up killing young kids."

The research underway at the hospital is attempting to pinpoint why osteosarcoma tends to favor the lungs as an area of growth and how it can be prevented, Roberts said.

The key might lie in developing medication that provides a genetic alteration that might prevent the bone cancer tumor cells from spreading into the lungs, he said.

"Interestingly, osteosarcoma is very common in dogs and we are finding some promising results with testing that we are doing on dogs," Roberts said.

Pediatric oncology often can be a heartbreaking line of work, he said.

"There are cases that are the saddest experiences to go through, when a youngster dies from cancer," he said. "But, then, there are the times when you're able to tell a family that their son or daughter does not have cancer, and that's the happiest experience you can imagine. So you have some highs with the lows."

Roberts is participating in his third Pelotonia and will ride the 55-mile route from New Albany to Gambier.

"I try to go a little bit farther each year," he said. "In life, you want to keep challenging yourself to go a little bit farther. I try to teach my kids that it's only by attempting hard things that we can achieve hard things."

Finding cures for such pediatric cancers as osteosarcoma are difficult tasks.

"For me, participating in Pelotonia is encouraging because you see that so many people are involved in making a contribution toward researching and finding treatments that will help people survive and beat cancer," Roberts said.

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