By Christina Echegaray
Debra Friedman, MD, MS, director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, has been awarded a $100,000 Hyundai Hope On Wheels Impact Award to examine outcomes in pediatric, adolescent and young adult sarcoma patients and survivors.
To date, Hyundai Hope on Wheels, which includes funding from Hyundai Motor America and local dealerships, has awarded nearly $2 million in funding to pediatric cancer researchers at Monroe Carell since 2007. The grants are awarded in September during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Every 36 minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer in the United States. With advancements in research, diagnosis and treatment, childhood cancer survival rates have improved to an 85% survival rate, but a lot of work remains to improve outcomes and reduce long-term side effects.
Friedman, holder of the E. Bronson Ingram Chair in Pediatric Oncology, is now a repeat recipient of a Hyundai Hope on Wheels grants. She received one in 2015 for research on the physical and psychosocial effects of cancer and again in 2018 for developing targeted cancer therapies.
With this latest grant, Friedman will build a cohort of pediatric, adolescent and young adult sarcoma patients and follow them through diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. The research will look at outcomes, quality of life for patients and families, genetic responses to therapy as well as side effects, among other aspects of survivorship. She will also build a biorepository of ongoing research.
“We cure 85% of patients, but until that number is 100%, we’re not going to stop doing what we’re doing and trying to learn. We want to be understanding what causes cancer and then preventing it so no parent has to have their baby or child go through that,” Friedman said. “That is our goal and how we do that is through research. Thank you, Hyundai, for supporting childhood cancer, our hospital, and of course, the research that I’m doing. We could not do it without you.”
Representatives from Hyundai and local dealerships presented a check and an honorary lab coat to Friedman during a special celebration at Monroe Carell, which included 1-year-old patient Edo Beeri and his parents, Kelse and Tom. The event was followed by a “handprint” ceremony where cancer patients dipped their hands in paint and put their handprints on a white Hyundai Sante Fe, with each handprint representing their personal stories of hope and courage.
“Our goal is to help kids grow and succeed in a world that is free from pediatric cancer. We won’t stop until we find a cure,” said John Fratianni, senior merchandising manager for the Hyundai Motor America Southern Region.
“Every handprint tells a story in the fight against pediatric cancer. That’s the theme of this annual initiative. It reflects the idea that there are many hands involved in the fight against pediatric cancer — patients, researchers, doctors, parents, supporters and more. And each one plays an important role in this fight. It’s an enduring symbol of our collective hope and progress.”
Monroe Carell is 1 of 88 institutions across the country to receive grants totaling $25 million in celebration of Hope on Wheels 25th anniversary. The initiative has donated more than $225 million in grants since its inception in 1998.