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Hyundai Hope on Wheels Launches 16th Year of Fight against Pediatric Cancer

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Although Hyundai Motor America is using the venue of the New York International Auto Show, which runs from April 16 to April 27, to showcase its vehicles, it also used the event as an opportunity to promote its Hope on Wheels campaign. On April 17, the automaker launched its 16th year in the battle against pediatric cancer. With the announcement, Hyundai noted that it had awarded $86 million for research funding.

In conjunction with the auto show, the event took place at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. The winners of 49 Hope On Wheels pediatric cancer research grants were announced. A nationwide tour will be conducted later this year to present these research grants to children’s hospitals. Among the recipients were two Southern California facilities: Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Dr. Leo Mascarenhas of Children's Hospital Los Angeles was awarded funds for a pilot clinical trial investigating the combination of vinorelbine, actinomycin-D and cyclophosphamide for the treatment of adolescents and young adults with rhabdomyosarcoma, a deadly cancer of muscular tissue. Teens and young adults have a much poorer prognosis when compared to children with cancer. Many reasons contribute to this sad statistic. They include higher incidence of unfavorable histology, more advanced disease when first diagnosed, lack of uniformity in treatment protocols, and a variety of socioeconomic stressors experienced by this age group. The clinical trial will evaluate the feasibility and toxicity of this treatment and response rate in rhabdomyosarcoma; it will also investigate the pharmacokinetics of vinorelbine when administered with actinomycin-D and cyclophosphamide. (Pharmacokinetics is a branch of pharmacology focused on determining the fate of substances administered externally to a living organism.) In addition, because data for rhabdomyosarcoma in this age group is lacking, tumor genomes will be profiled and it will be compared to existing data available in children. This may result in a better understanding of the biology of rhabomyosarcoma in this age group and identify molecular targets for agents that could be combined with cytotoxic chemotherapy to improve outcomes.

The other recipient in Southern California was Dr. Kimberly Payne of Loma Linda University Medical Center. She notes that cancer is currently a death sentence for 1 in 5 children with the most common childhood leukemia. In 2009, a particularly deadly form of this disease was identified. She notes that this finding was especially important to the researchers at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital because Hispanic and Native American Children who make up the majority of our pediatric patients are five times more likely to have this aggressive form of leukemia than other children. Their research has found that this type of deadly leukemia can be activated by chemicals in the body to produce a protein that helps the leukemia cells resist chemotherapy. The funds supplied by Hope On Wheels funds will be used to test drugs that target this chemotherapy resistance protein in order to determine whether these drugs are effective against this aggressive childhood leukemia. She explains that this research marks the next step toward clinical trials to test drugs for their ability to improve the survival of children with this deadly disease at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital and around the world.

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