Houston family donates $2 million to establish first-of-its-kind center dedicated to researching Ewing sarcoma at Texas Children's Cancer Center

HOUSTON (March 10, 2014) -Texas Children's Cancer Center has established a first-of-its-kind center, the Faris D. Virani Ewing Sarcoma Center, dedicated to researching this rare childhood cancer in which cancer cells are found in the bone or soft tissue. Made possible by a generous $2 million gift from the Virani family, the funding will support the development of better diagnostic and therapeutic approaches with the goal of finding a cure for Ewing sarcoma. To learn more about Texas Children's Cancer Center, visit txch.org.

Led by Dr. Jason Yustein, director of the Faris D. Virani Ewing Sarcoma Center and assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, the research team members within the center will perform pre-clinical and clinical research for children with Ewing sarcoma. The new center honors Asha and Farid Virani's son Faris' battle with Ewing sarcoma.

"Unfortunately, a significant number of patients with Ewing sarcoma experience metastasis, or disease that has spread to multiple sites in their body," said Yustein. "This is frequently a sign of a more aggressive cancer. In addition, a significant portion of patients that do respond to therapy eventually relapse. Furthermore, there has been a lack of new chemotherapeutic agents introduced for patients with this disease and current treatments are extremely intensive and often have both short- and long-term side effects that can negatively impact lifestyle and quality of life for these patients."

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the Virani family's gift was held recently in the laboratory space that will house the new center. During the ceremony, Faris presented Yustein with a piggy bank containing $1,000 he has saved since he was a small child. The piggy bank was a symbolic first installment of the $2 million gift.

The Virani family also commissioned a painting for the new laboratory containing a silhouette of mother and son with a dramatic and colorful sunset in the background. The painting contains the name of the new center and at the bottom is a quote from when Faris was undergoing treatment that reads, "Mommy, cancer is not hard." The quote is a reminder, Asha explained during the ribbon cutting ceremony, "that if a 7 year old boy can say that about cancer, then surely the cure for cancer cannot be hard, we just need conviction."

In the U.S., cancer remains the leading cause of non-accidental death in children. Ewing sarcoma is the second most common bone tumor in childhood. It often originates in large bones such as the hip, shin, chest and arm bones. Over the past 30 to 40 years, because of the lack of understanding of the biology of Ewing sarcoma, only marginal advancements have been made in the care and management of patients with this disease. In order to develop better diagnostic and therapeutic approaches and a cure for Ewing sarcoma, more research needs to be conducted so that efforts can be focused on advancing treatment options and improving patient outcomes. This type of research will be performed at this new center.

Texas Children's Cancer Center is a joint program of Texas Children's and Baylor, and is the pediatric program of Baylor's NCI-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center.

About Texas Children’s Hospital

Texas Children’s Hospital, a not-for-profit health care organization, is committed to creating a healthier future for children and women throughout the global community by leading in patient care, education and research. Consistently ranked as the best children’s hospital in Texas, and among the top in the nation, Texas Children’s has garnered widespread recognition for its expertise and breakthroughs in pediatric and women’s health. The hospital includes the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; the Feigin Center for pediatric research; Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, a comprehensive obstetrics/gynecology facility focusing on high-risk births; Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, a community hospital in suburban West Houston; and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, a second community hospital planned to open in 2017. The organization also created the nation’s first HMO for children, has the largest pediatric primary care network in the country and a global health program that’s channeling care to children and women all over the world. Texas Children’s Hospital is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine. For more information, go to www.texaschildrens.org. Get the latest news by visiting the online newsroom and Twitter at twitter.com/texaschildrens.