Project asks how cancer therapies affect the heart later in life
SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 5, 2014) — Representatives of Hyundai Motor America on Friday announced a $250,000 “Hope Grant” to fund childhood cancer research in the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
The Hope Grant, awarded through the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program, will support studies of Gregory J. Aune, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine. Dr. Aune, who as a teenager survived Hodgkin lymphoma, was later diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis and coronary artery disease. It is estimated that a quarter of long-term survivors will suffer life-threatening complications of the cancer treatment that saved them.
“Unfortunately, individuals who survive cancer and enter adulthood have an alarming rate of severe medical conditions,” Dr. Aune said. “Heart disease is a significant and emerging problem in this growing population.”
“Our goal is more than offering them a chance at survival. We want to provide them with better treatment that not only cures them, but offers them a great quality of life over the long term.”
Dr. Aune’s laboratory has developed mouse models to study how cancer therapies affect the heart and lead to cardiac disease later in life. In a novel mouse model of chemotherapy-induced heart damage, the lab is evaluating long-term cardiac protection by an agent called dexrazoxane, which is the only approved medication known to reduce this heart damage.
Evaluating long-term cardiac outcomes in clinical studies with human cancer survivors requires decades and is impractical. “Our mouse model allows for evaluation of analogous late cardiac disease in approximately 15 months,” Dr. Aune said.
Local Hyundai dealers and Hyundai Motor America representatives presented the award at the Sky Tower at University Hospital. University Health System is the site of UT Kids San Antonio pediatric cancer care. UT Kids is the pediatric practice of the Health Science Center. Dr. Aune conducts research at the university’s Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute.
“Hyundai is honored to provide the resources that contribute to finding a cure for children’s cancer,” said Rick Dorn, market representation manager of Hyundai Motor America. “This year, I’m very proud to this present check for $250,000.”
It is part of a deeply appreciated tradition, said Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs at the Health Science Center.
“Hyundai has been a terrific partner for children’s cancer care, and this grant for Dr. Aune helps us not only in our work to cure cancer now, but to care for them in the future,” Dr. González said.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and in observance Hyundai Hope on Wheels is awarding 36 grants totaling $9 million to help fight childhood cancer. The donations are given as Hope Grants to hospitals and nonprofit organizations across the country. Hyundai Motor America and its dealers joined the fight against childhood cancer in 1998 and created a program called Hyundai Hope on Wheels. At the end of this year, Hope on Wheels will have committed more than $74.6 million to fight childhood cancer. For program information, visit www.hyundaihopeonwheels.org.
“I’ve worked with Hyundai on this gift for several years now,” said Gail Tomlinson, M.D., Ph.D., interim director of the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute. “It’s clear that this is not just a financial gift, but a gift from the heart.”
And those gifts that have made such a difference over time provide a special momentum going forward, said Thomas Mayes, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics. “We are able to continue our research on finding better ways to help children, and at the same time we are working in this beautiful new facility at University Hospital to take care of our children right now.”
Every 36 minutes there is a new case of pediatric cancer. Every day approximately 40 children, the equivalent of a school classroom, are diagnosed with cancer, which adds up to almost 15,000 new cases of childhood cancer diagnosed each year.
The symbol of the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program is children’s hand prints. Along with Friday’s check presentation, pediatric patients in attendance were invited to leave their hand prints on canvas.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health funding. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced more than 29,000 graduates. The $765 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.