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Hyundai Hope on Wheels grants to UMMS exceed $1 million
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Hyundai Hope on Wheels grants to UMMS exceed $1 million

Generous support for pediatric cancer research provides hope

A committed advocate for helping kids fight cancer, Hyundai Hope on Wheels has been a generous supporter of pediatric cancer research across the nation, and at UMass Chan Medical School. When the foundation awarded a $250,000 grant to UMMS scientist Wen Xue, PhD, in September 2016, its total support to the Medical School surpassed the $1 million mark.

“These individual awards to hospitals and organizations across the country are pivotal to ending childhood cancer. Although there remains a lot more work to be done, the innovation that comes from this research will ultimately help us find a cure,” said Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, in 2016 when the grant was awarded.

Dr. Xue, assistant professor in the RNA Therapeutics Institute (RTI), was one of 24 recipients across the country selected by a rigorous scientific review panel to receive the highly competitive grant. It was the fifth awarded to Medical School scientists since 2011.

“I am grateful to Hyundai for believing in the important basic research here at UMass Chan Medical School,” said Dr. Xue. “Continued support for basic cancer research is critical to driving advancements to help kids and their family to win the battle against cancer.”

Dr. Xue is using the funding to study pediatric liver tumors and potential new treatments that do not involve chemotherapy. To meet the unmet clinical need, Dr. Xue and Peter E. Newburger, MD, the Ali and John Pierce Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and professor of pediatrics, molecular, cell & cancer biology and microbiology & physiological systems, will focus on developing genome editing technology that could lead to the discovery of new drug target genes.

“This project will result in new candidate drugs to treat childhood liver tumors and will help kids who are fighting cancer,” Dr. Xue said.

For Kenneth Laferriere, Dr. Xue’s research focus brings hope. As a child, Laferriere had liver cancer and was treated at UMass Memorial Medical Center. When the grant was awarded, he sat in the Albert Sherman Center with his wife, Kim, and their sons Kameron, 5, and Kaiden, 10 months, listening to the advances in cancer research underway at UMMS and the pledged support from Hyundai officials.

“My two boys wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for continued research such as this,” Laferriere said.

To celebrate, Kameron had the honor of adding his red poster-paint handprint to the official Hyundai Hope on Wheels vehicle parked outside the Sherman Center.

The Xue grant was part of $7.5 million in pediatric cancer research grants that Hyundai Motor America awarded to 34 hospitals throughout September 2016 in recognition of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.


Previous UMMS recipients of the Hyundai Hope on Wheels grants, which now total $1.1 million:

Dr. Newburger, to support his research on chromosome silencing in leukemia in Down syndrome. (2011)

Michelle A. Kelliher, PhD, professor of molecular, cell & cancer biology and microbiology & physiological systems, to support research for the development of targeted therapies for children with refractory T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. (2013)

Jack L. Leonard, PhD, professor of microbiology & physiological systems and anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, to explore a tumor suppressing pathway that arrests growth and initiates programmed cell death in glioblastoma tumor cells. (2014)

Lucio H. Castilla, PhD, professor of molecular, cell & cancer biology and biochemistry and molecular pharmacology, for his research into targeted therapies for pediatric blood cancers. (2015)

Above: Kameron Laferriere, with help from his dad Kenneth, adds a red handprint to the signature car at the Hyundai Hope on Wheels ceremony in 2016.