SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 25, 2012) — Hyundai Motor America and local Hyundai dealers brought the Hyundai Hope on Wheels™ program to San Antonio today, presenting a $250,000 Hope Grant to scientists in the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.
The Hope Grant will support studies of myelodysplasia and leukemia conducted by Alexander Bishop, D.Phil., and Vivienne Rebel, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professors in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology. These scientists work in laboratories at the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute, where Hyundai officials presented an oversized check today.
Several children who have been affected by cancer were present with their siblings and parents to place colorful handprints on paper, which is a symbol of the Hope on Wheels program.
Myelodysplastic syndromes are serious blood cell disorders in which the bone marrow does not function normally. Dr. Rebel said the syndromes are difficult to treat, prompting the search for novel ways to address them.
Dr. Bishop studies DNA repair defects in syndromes such as Bloom’s syndrome, a rare inherited disorder that frequently leads to cancer and often displays myelodysplastic syndrome. DNA, the genetic blueprint in cells, undergoes insults and repair constantly. The insults are from environmental and other factors.
“We’re very excited about this grant,” Dr. Bishop said. “We asked whether the cells defective in patients with myelodysplasia have DNA repair defects, and the answer is yes. With this grant we can now ask why.”
Thomas Mayes, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, said the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute is designed to generate understandings about the biology of cancer for children and adults. He recalled that, while a schoolboy in West Texas, one of his classmates was not seen over a summer and ultimately died of childhood leukemia. “Today, it’s treatable,” Dr. Mayes said.
Rich Dorn, regional south central manager of Hyundai Motor America, said the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program is made possible by generous participating dealers, including those represented at today’s announcement. Forty-one Hope Grants totaling $10.25 million are being presented this September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
The School of Medicine at the Health Science Center has now received $480,000 through the program. Leanne Embry, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics, related how last year’s $100,000 Hope Grant enabled the Pediatrics Division of Hematology-Oncology to hire a medical interpreter to improve communication with Spanish-speaking families. The grant also assisted with hiring a clinical psychologist to meet the emotional needs of families.
Stacy Malone, mother of 4-year-old twins Waylon and Morgan Malone, helped her children with the handprint fun. Last November, Waylon was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma with bone marrow involvement. Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from nerve tissue. The little warrior has undergone tumor removal, seven rounds of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and three weeks of radiation, his mother said. Recently the family has had good news from the doctors and Waylon has entered a maintenance phase of his treatment, Stacy Malone said.
The Hyundai Hope on Wheels program is action personified to help children such as Waylon. “Everyone knows someone, perhaps a child, who has been touched by cancer,” said Gail Tomlinson, M.D., Ph.D., who holds the Greehey Distinguished Chair in the Genetics of Cancer at the UT Health Science Center. “These university-community relationships are so important.”
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 federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 28,000 graduates. The $736 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.