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Hyundai Hope on Wheels award supports Jason Shohet’s research in childhood cancer

Hyundai Hope on Wheels presents Jason Shohet, MD, PhD, with a grant
Representatives of Hyundai Motor America Hope on Wheels present Jason Shohet, MD, PhD, with a $300,000 grant to support his neuroblastoma research. 

UMass Medical School clinician-scientist Jason Shohet, MD, PhD, accepted a $300,000 grant on Monday, Sept. 23, from the Hyundai Motor America Hope on Wheels campaign to continue his work toward developing more effective and less toxic therapies for childhood cancers with a special focus on neuroblastoma.

Dr. Shohet, the Ali and John Pierce Chair of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, division chief of pediatric hematology and oncology, and associate professor of pediatrics, is one of 52 recipients across the country selected by a rigorous scientific review panel to receive a portion of the $13.2 million, highly competitive grant. Under the grant, Shohet will work with Joae Qiong Wu, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics, whose research focuses on the epigenetic regulation of diseases specific to childhood cancer and obesity.

Neuroblastoma is a disease of the developing peripheral nervous system in young children and represents about 7 percent of all pediatric cancer cases. Shohet said the typical patient is less than 5 years old and the average age at diagnosis is about 18 months. It typically presents as an abdominal tumor, often near the kidneys and the adrenal gland.

At a ceremony announcing the award, Shohet thanked Hyundai for its continued support of pediatric cancer research and recognized the children and families gathered in the Albert Sherman Center multipurpose room, including 5-year-old Liam Howard, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in March of 2018, and his mother, Erin.

“It is for you that I’m doing this research. Thank you for being my inspiration and thank you, Hyundai, for supporting our work,” Shohet said.

Erin Howard added her thanks to the researchers, clinicians at UMass Memorial Medical Center and Hyundai.

“Since diagnosis, life has been more fortunate. We’ve noticed and been grateful for the small things,” she said before giving Liam, now in kindergarten, a quick hug.

Michael R. Green, MD, PhD, the Lambi and Sarah Adams Chair in Genetic Research; chair and professor in the Department of Molecular, Cell & Cancer Biology, director of the UMMS Cancer Center; co-director of the Li Weibo Institute for Rare Diseases Research; and vice provost for strategic research initiatives, said it was a great time to be a cancer researcher.

“We have an unprecedented understanding what the difference is between a normal cell and a cancer cell, and new and unprecedented opportunities and approaches to treat cancer. I think we’re making tremendous progress and really our greatest limitation is to be able to get funding. We’re appreciative of your generosity and look forward to working with you in support of our joint mission,” Dr. Green said. 

After the ceremony, Alizé Mcleod, 7 months; Douglas Berry, 12; and Patrick Halvorsen, 16; joined Liam Howard to dip their hands in paint and place their handprints on a white 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe, the dealerships’ symbol of its “Every handprint tells a story” campaign.

“Our commitment to fight against pediatric cancer isn’t about selling more cars or promoting our business, it’s truly at the core of who we are and it represents our commitment to children because they are our responsibility. Every handprint tells a story and children’s lives are precious. You can count on our handprints to continue to be part of this effort,” said Christopher Connolly, Jr., general manager of Herb Connolly Hyundai.