A slick paint job on a quick car zooming around an iconic venue brought attention to vital research unfolding at IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Getting Cancer Research on Track

A slick paint job on a quick car zooming around an iconic venue brought attention to vital research unfolding at IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.
a red and white indy car race car is parked in front of the pagoda suites at the indianapolis motor speedway. A billboard in the background reads "Chip Ganassi Racing" and "Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center"

AT FIRST GLANCE, it might seem that auto racing and cancer research have little in common. But that’s not how Kelvin Lee, MD, sees it.

“We are in the business of accelerating cancer research. And to beat cancer, you have to go fast, drive smart and have a great team,” said Lee, director of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In that spirit, the two worlds of racing and research beautifully melded this summer on an IndyCar—specifically, Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 11 car, which sported the colors and logos of the cancer center at the Gallagher Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The red and white livery, as the car exterior colors and logos in racing are known, was generously donated by the Jack, John and Jeff Schwarz family. The unique opportunity tied into the cancer center’s Race to Beat Cancer public online education campaign, which focuses on cancer prevention and early detection.

Specifically, it’s aimed at breast, colon, lung and testicular cancers, as well as HPV-related cancers of the head and neck and cervix. As part of the campaign, experts from the cancer center provide easy-to-understand tips about prevention and early detection, signs and symptoms, screening guidelines, the latest research, and more.

The car, driven by New Zealander Marcus Armstrong, had a fast qualifying time, positioning it seventh in a 27-car field. Unfortunately, a first-lap crash knocked the car out of contention for a win. Still, Armstrong finished the race. And Lee, the cancer center director, said that’s another thing racing and cancer share.

“All of us in cancer research had great empathy for Marcus. We know the feeling when you and your team plans everything so carefully and yet the unexpected happens—your experiment fails or your clinical trial results are far from what you expected,” Lee said. “The important thing, though, is to do exactly what Marcus did: work together to get back on the track and keep moving toward the goal–curing cancer.”


To speed up cancer research that saves lives, contact Amber Kleopfer Senseny at 317-278-4510 or akleopfe@iu.edu.


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Bobby King

Bobby King is the director of development and alumni communications in the Office of Gift Development. Before joining the IU School of Medicine in 2018, Bobby was a reporter with The Indianapolis Star. Before that he was a reporter for newspapers in Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.