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Hyundai Hope On Wheels bolsters pediatric cancer fight

July 30, 2015 | Christina Echegaray

Caleb Cloninger

Caleb Cloninger, 13, helped paint the car at last week’s Hyundai Hope On Wheels grant-awarding ceremony at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. (photo by Joe Howell)

Debra Friedman, M.D., director of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Pediatric Oncology, has received a $50,000 Hyundai Hope On Wheels Impact grant recently for her track record in providing excellent patient care to families affected by pediatric cancer and to support a pediatric cancer program aimed at developing innovative therapies.

Hyundai Hope On Wheels has awarded more than $865,000 in funding to pediatric cancer researchers at Vanderbilt. The company and local dealerships began their partnership with the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in 2007.

Debra Friedman, M.D.

Debra Friedman, M.D.

“My goal is to advance therapies so we can have a cure for every child who walks through these doors and a cure nationwide,” Friedman said during the grant ceremony. “If we can understand the biology of the tumor, the genetics of the tumor and then develop targeted therapies that only kill cancer cells and don’t hurt normal cells, it will be a home run. We will have higher cure rates for childhood cancer, and most importantly, we won’t be making these kids as sick as we are now.”

Representatives from the automaker and local dealerships presented a check to Friedman at a Hope Grant ceremony July 22 that included Children’s Hospital patients who are battling cancer.

The children also dipped their hands in colorful paint and placed their handprints on a white Hyundai Santa Fe to represent their personal stories of courage and hope.

Between 12,000 and 13,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States.

The Hyundai initiative has raised more than $100 million for pediatric research over the past 15 years.