News: Featured Stories

Kenneth Laferriere helps his son, Kameron.
October 1, 2016

Hyundai Hope on Wheels donates $250,000 for pediatric cancer research

  • Medical School
UMMS cancer researcher pursuing targeted treatments for childhood liver cancer

UMass Medical School scientist Wen Xue, PhD, accepted a $250,000 grant on Friday, Sept. 23 from the Hyundai Motor America Hope on Wheels campaign to continue his work toward improving care and treatment options for children and adults with liver cancer.

Dr. Xue, assistant professor in the RNA Therapeutics Institute (RTI), is one of 24 recipients across the country selected by a rigorous scientific review panel to receive the highly competitive grant.

“I am grateful to Hyundai for believing in the important basic research here at UMass Medical School. Continued support for basic cancer research is critical to driving advancements to help kids and their family to win the battle against cancer,” Xue said.

Xue will use the funding to study pediatric liver tumors and potential new treatments that do not involve chemotherapy. To meet the unmet clinical need, Xue and Peter E. Newburger, MD, the Ali and John Pierce Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and professor of pediatrics, molecular, cell & cancer biology and microbiology & physiological systems, will focus on developing genome editing technology that could lead to the discovery of new drug target genes.

“This project will result in new candidate drugs to treat childhood liver tumors and will help kids who are fighting cancer,” Xue said.

For Kenneth Laferriere, Xue’s research focus brings hope. As a child, Laferriere had liver cancer and was treated at UMass Memorial Medical Center. On Friday, he sat in the Albert Sherman Center with his wife, Kim, and their sons Kameron, 5, and Kaiden, 10 months, listening to the advances in cancer research underway at UMMS and the pledged support from Hyundai officials.

“My two boys wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for continued research such as this,” Laferriere said. 

To celebrate, Kameron had the honor of adding his red poster-paint handprint to the official Hyundai Hope on Wheels vehicle parked outside the Sherman Center.

The Xue grant is part of $7.5 million in pediatric cancer research grants that Hyundai Motor America is awarding to 34 hospitals throughout September in recognition of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

“These individual awards to hospitals and organizations across the country are pivotal to ending childhood cancer. Although there remains a lot more work to be done, the innovation that comes from this research will ultimately help us find a cure,” said Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America.

Previous UMMS recipients of the Hyundai Hope on Wheels grants, which now total $1.1 million since 2001, are:

  • Dr. Newburger;
  • Michelle A. Kelliher, PhD, professor of molecular, cell & cancer biology and microbiology & physiological systems;
  • Jack L. Leonard, PhD, professor of microbiology & physiological systems and anesthesiology and perioperative medicine; and
  • Lucio H. Castilla, PhD, professor of molecular, cell & cancer biology and biochemistry and molecular pharmacology.