Bryce Taylor
J.D. Fitzgerald/Tucson Local Media

At a ceremony in the lobby of the Diamond Children’s Center, the Hyundai Hope On Wheels and Tucson-area Hyundai dealers awarded University of Arizona Steele Children’s Research Center a $400,000 Hyundai Scholar Hope Grant for pediatric cancer research. The grants are part of a nationwide effort by Hyundai to help battle pediatric cancer. 

The grant funds will support the work of Dr. Emmanuel Katsanis and Dr. Yi Zeng, who both work with bone marrow transplants. 

Jim Click, who owns three area Hyundai dealerships, and Hyundai Regional Sales Manager Nathan Miller presented the check to Director of the Steele Children’s Research Center Dr. Fayez K. Ghishan.

“We are here for one purpose only and that purpose is how to beat cancer,” said Dr. Ghishan. “We can only beat cancer through research. If we do research, then we will be able to discover a mechanism in how to really knock down this disease.”

Click has been a longtime supporter of the UA Steele Center and Dr. Ghisan’s work. 

“We hope that this money we are talking about today is the money that kind of makes the breakthrough to find cures for some of these pediatric cancers,” said Click. 

Dr. Katsanis will receive $250,000 to help further his study of using a post-transplant drug to help patients who receive haploidentical bone marrow transplantations, which involves bone marrow donors who are only half matches. The hope is the drug will help suppress disease while preserving the cancer fighting aspects of the transplant. 

“This comes at a great time as funding for pediatric cancer has suffered,” said Dr. Katsanis. 

He explained there have been cuts in funding as well as trends in the medical industry to spend less because of the overall small number of sufferers. Lung, colon and breast cancer research gets the bulk of the funding. 

Dr. Zeng received $150,000 to study whether the enzyme Pak2 can be used to help post transplant success.

The UA Steele Center is one of 45 recipients across the country to receive a 2015 Hyundai Scholar Grant. 

In all, Hope On Wheels will award $10.5 million in research grants this September in honor of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. 

The UA Steele Center, a long-time partner of the organization, has received $695,000 from Hope On Wheels to date.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, several of the current and former patients on hand conducted a handprint ceremony where they placed paint on their hands and then made imprints on lab coats. The ceremony is part of Hyundai’s Every Handprint Tells a Story campaign, which hopes to convey how every child’s handprint is unique and represents their stories, dreams, desires and hopes.

The UA Steele Center has 116 beds, all private rooms and has 17 highly specialized doctors from the best hospitals and programs. 

Dr. Ghisan has done his best to attract the top doctors from around the nation and joked that there are a few hospitals that “won’t talk to me anymore” since he has hired away some of their top doctors. 

Hyundai has also designated its Hyundai Tucson as their “vehicle of hope,” something Click and Miller felt represented the community’s support of the UA Steele Center and cancer research in general. 

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