This year alone, the American Cancer Society estimates roughly 10,450 patients younger than 15 years old will be diagnosed with cancer. Thanks to recent advancements in pediatric oncology, over 80% of children with cancer survive past 5 years. Despite this being a significant improvement over the mid-1970s odds of a 60% survival, much still needs to be researched to spare children and their families from the heavy ordeal of cancer.
Last Friday, spokespersons from Hyundai Motor America announced that they have donated $250,000 under a “Hope Grant” in support of pediatric cancer research initiatives at the UT Health Science Center’s School of Medicine. The company’s representatives awarded the grant at the Sky Tower at University Hospital.
This generous gift will help fund the work of researcher Gregory J. Aune, M.D., Ph.D., n assistant professor of pediatrics, and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor. Not long after, Dr. Aune was diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis and coronary artery disease (CAD). According to statistics, 1 out of 4 survivors of this disease will acquire serious long-term complications caused by the same treatment that helped them survive cancer.
Commonly-held assertions in the research community these days link heart disease with a poor diet and lifestyle. More people should be aware that potent and physically-taxing cancer treatments tend to damage the cardiovascular system as well, and can affect cancer survivors even years after treatment. Dr. Aune’s goal is to help make life after cancer better.
His work utilizes laboratory mice to observe the effect of cancer treatments on the heart. An advantage to using mice in the study of late-onset cardiac complications is the ability to observe results in about 15 months, whereas in humans, it would necessitate a decades-long study.
One of his mouse models features cardiac damage from chemotherapy, and is currently receiving dexrazoxane — the first and only FDA-approved drug indicated to protect against long-term damage to the heart.
The entire month of September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The Hyundai Hope on Wheels program, which was founded back in 1998, is awarding 36 research grants amounting to $9 million in support of research into pediatric oncology. It is estimated that by the end of 2014, the company will have donated a total of $74.6 million to childhood cancer efforts.
Last month, Dr. Greg Aune shared his plans to extend the scope of his work to include actual patients. He expects to enroll 30 participants according to a set of criteria, to complete a health survey and a few non-invasive examinations.