UT Health San Antonio gears up to fight childhood cancer, thanks to Hyundai Hope on Wheels® grants

Contacts: Monica Taylor, 210-450-8970, taylorm1@uthscsa.edu, Eileen Teves, 210-450-7239, tevese@uthscsa.edu

SAN ANTONIO – Children with cancer were joined by their families as they dipped their hands in finger paint and left their mark on a new Hyundai SUV at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s (UT Health San Antonio) Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute (GCCRI). Their smiles lit up the room Tuesday morning, warming the hearts of families, friends and all who witnessed the Handprint Ceremony during the Hyundai Hope on Wheels® event.

In the United States, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer every day. To help in the fight against childhood cancer, Hyundai Hope on Wheels® presented two grants totaling $500,000 to UT Health San Antonio for pediatric cancer research.

Gail Tomlinson, MD, PhD, division director of pediatric hematology-oncology at UT Health San Antonio, received a $400,000 Hyundai Hope Scholar Grant Award to study new mechanisms for treating liver tumors including those resistant to conventional therapies. A $100,000 Hyundai Impact Grant Award was presented to Tomlinson’s genetics team in the division of pediatric oncology to expand the availability of genetic testing at University Hospital’s pediatric clinic.

“We are increasingly learning of new genetic origins of childhood cancer, even in children without an obvious family history of cancer,” Tomlinson said. “To receive both awards and support from Hyundai Hope on Wheels® means we can continue our research to find better treatment options and to improve care for children battling pediatric cancer.”

Tomlinson is a physician-scientist, studying hepatoblastoma and other aggressive liver tumors in children. She sees patients at the South Texas Pediatric Blood Disorders and Cancer Center at University Hospital, a clinical partnership of UT Health San Antonio and University Health.

“Research grants from Hyundai Hope on Wheels® offer hope for children and their parents,” said Patrick Sung, DPhil, director of the Greehey Institute. “This opportunity fuels our community of scientists and health care providers who continue this much-needed work. With these grants, Hyundai Hope on Wheels® support for research has exceeded $2.1 million at UT Health San Antonio.”

Representatives of Hyundai Motor America and Hyundai Hope on Wheels® joined UT Health San Antonio scientists and the children and families for the presentation. After the Handprint Ceremony, the painted Hyundai SUV will travel across the country to help raise awareness about childhood cancer. The handprints represent children battling cancer, children who survived cancer and children whose memories live on.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a month dedicated to increasing awareness of pediatric cancer and to raise funds for research. Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 14. Worldwide, about 400,000 children and adolescents develop cancer each year, only half of whom are diagnosed. The Hyundai Hope on Wheels® Handprint Ceremony was put on pause at UT Health San Antonio for three years due to COVID-19 restrictions. In 2022, Anne-Marie Langevin, MD, professor of pediatrics, Greehey Chair in pediatric oncology, and principal investigator for Children’s Oncology Group, and Manjeet Rao, PhD, deputy director of GCCRI, received the Hyundai Scholar Hope Award to study the development of novel treatment of osteosarcoma, a common bone tumor in children, one of the most frequently seen cancers in growing teenagers. This year is the first since 2019 to highlight the Handprint Ceremony and rejoin with pediatric patients for an in-person event.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) is one of the country’s leading health science universities and is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. With missions of teaching, research, patient care and community engagement, its schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions, graduate biomedical sciences and public health have graduated more than 42,200 alumni who are leading change, advancing their fields and renewing hope for patients and their families throughout South Texas and the world. To learn about the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit UTHealthSA.org.

The Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute is one of only two institutes in the United States dedicated solely to pediatric cancer research. Its 18 laboratories focus their strengths on cancer genomics, DNA repair, RNA biology and drug development in finding new and less toxic treatments for childhood cancers.

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