Edinburgh Cancer Research

Our postdoctoral scientist completed IRONMAN Tallinn to raise funds for sarcoma research

Our postdoctoral researcher Piotr Manasterski completed a gruelling IRONMAN Tallinn event to raise awareness about the importance of sarcoma research: September 2022

Piotr after completing his IRONMAN Tallinn race
Piotr after completing his IRONMAN Tallinn race.

Congratulations to Dr Piotr Manasterski, our postdoctoral investigator from Poland, who completed the IRONMAN Tallinn race in 11 hours and 2 minutes!

IRONMAN Tallinn is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the Ironman Group, consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run completed in that order. IRONMAN races are frequently placed among the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. IRONMAN Tallinn is a part of the midsummer triathlon festival in the capital of Estonia and this year it took place on the 6th August. The competition courses run around the historic Old Town of Tallinn and through the wonderful nature of Harju Country.

Piotr participated in this challenging race to raise awareness about sarcoma and gather funds in support of the Sarcoma UK, a charity who funds his research in Edinburgh.

Sarcoma is the general term for a broad group of cancers that begin in the bones and in the soft (also called connective) tissues (soft tissue sarcoma). The tumour formation can occur in various locations in the body. Soft tissue sarcoma forms in the tissues that connect, support and surround other body structures. This includes muscle, fat, blood vessels, nerves, tendons and the lining of joints. There are more than 70 types of sarcoma and sarcoma diagnoses make up about 1.3% of all cancer diagnoses in the UK. Treatment for sarcoma varies depending on sarcoma type, location and other factors. Sarcoma research has lagged behind other cancers for decades and more support is required to accelerate discoveries and to help transform the lives of people affected by this disease.

Piotr is a postdoctoral researcher in the “Signalling and the regulation of cancer growth and metastasis” group led by Prof Val Brunton. The group has keen interest in sarcomas, particularly in soft tissue sarcomas. Their sarcoma focused research is funded by Sarcoma UK, Cancer Research UK and the Chief Scientist Office.

Sarcomas are a rare type of cancer for which there are very few treatment options, and patients diagnosed with sarcoma have poor survival rates. New approaches are needed to find drugs that will provide benefit to sarcoma patients. For this to be effective, it is important to use cancer models that faithfully mimic the heterogeneity of the disease in patients, and retain the 3-dimensional (3D) aspects of the environment in which tumours grow, both of which are critical for how tumours respond to drug treatment. Piotr’s research focuses on using sophisticated 3D sarcoma models and cutting-edge experimental technologies to help understand sarcoma biology and drive important new target and drug discoveries for the treatment of soft tissue sarcoma. This includes approaches for personalised drug screening to guide treatment options of patients.

The race day began at 4 am in the morning with the sharp sound of the alarm clock. After a small and quick breakfast, we were off to the start line at Lake Harku, just outside of Tallinn. Just before the swim start, the air was so dense with anticipation and nervousness, it was almost hard to breathe. I was grateful to shortly share this experience with so many amazing athletes from all over the world. The 2.4 mile swim around the lake was made harder by the wind picking up its speed and I was happy to start the 112 mile bike leg of the race before the rain started. And rained it did, with over 2 hours of heavy rainfall providing cooling (at times too much) as we cycled through the beautiful countryside and woods of Estonia. After looping back into the city and finishing the bike, it was an amazing feeling to stretch my neck and back as I embarked on the final stage of the race, the marathon. The course looped four times through the picturesque old town and the city centre, with unbelievable support along the course by both locals and tourists alike. As the going got very tough for me and every step became a struggle, my mind kept drifting to the lovely messages of support I received alongside the donations for Sarcoma UK. They helped me to push through the pain and finish in 11 hours and 2 minutes, just a smidge above my target of 11 hours. I am tremendously grateful to everyone at the Institute of Genetics and Cancer for their support, it truly means the world to me and it felt like I was racing for all of you too, not just myself.

Piotr ManasterskiUniversity of Edinburgh​​​​​

Related Links

Information about sarcoma on Sarcoma UK website: https://sarcoma.org.uk/about-sarcoma/

Information about soft tissue sarcomas on CRUK website: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/soft-tissue-sarcoma

Prof Val Brunton group website:  https://www.ed.ac.uk/cancer-centre/research/brunton-group

IRONMAN website: https://www.ironman.com/

IRONMAN Tallinn event website: https://www.ironman.com/im-tallinn