$10+ million grant helps survivor now working at cancer institute that saved him

Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute gets $10.9 million grant

SAN ANTONIO – The doctors, staff and patients at the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute are celebrating its latest grant, a $10.9 million donation from Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

Helping the doctors at the institute is Bryon Martinez.

When Martinez was 11 year old, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

“Several things both physical and emotional. Physical, your body gets weak due to the chemo and emotionally you get all these stares due to hair loss,” Martinez said, recalling his battle.

Now 17, Martinez’ cancer is in remission and he said he hopes to help other children battling cancer.

“I want to study oncology now to be like the doctors that helped me get through my cancer,” he said.

Martinez is working with the doctors who once treated him.

When the cancer research center put out four applications for funding grants, it got quite the surprise.

“We put in four applications and all four got funded,” Dr. Peter Houghton, director of the center said. “It doesn't happen very often.”

Houghton said the money will go toward the treatment of childhood cancers that aren’t readily studied.

“The grant is to develop models of childhood cancers,” Houghton said. “About half of those models will be leukemias and we predict that 60 percent of those will be from Hispanic patients.”

Genome sequencing and the study of Ewing sarcoma, a type of bone and soft-tissue cancer will be researched.

Doctors also hope to find a more targeted way to treat those kinds of cancers.

“This research will eventually lead to finding better and cheaper ways to help those effects that are caused by the chemotherapy,” Houghton said.

Below is information provided by the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute explaining the grants in further detail.

• $5 million to develop animal models that can be used to test new therapies in children whose cancer has relapsed or who are from minority groups that typically have not responded well to current treatments. This funding was awarded to Dr. Houghton for the Health Science Center’s Texas Pediatric Patient Derived Xenograft (PDX) Facility.

• $3.6 million to update and expand upon existing infrastructure to establish a Cancer Genome Sequencing and Computational Core available to the South Texas research community through the Health Science Center. The grant was awarded to Yidong Chen, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, director of the Division of Computational Biology & Bioinformatics at the Greehey CCRI and co-director of the CTRC Next-Generation Sequencing Shared Resource.

• $2 million for the recruitment of Myron Ignatius, Ph.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ignatius has developed a genetic model of a type of soft-tissue cancer called embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma that generally occurs in children.

• $200,000 to develop a strategy to target EWS-FLl-1, a fusion oncoprotein that causes Ewing sarcoma, a bone and soft tissue cancer in children. The grant was awarded to Yuzuru Shiio, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry


About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.