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Researchers find groundbreaking developments with Tyler Trent’s donated cancer tumors

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine say they discovered a combination therapy that significantly slows tumor growth in models, built from cells taken from Tyler Trent.

Posted: Jan 16, 2020 10:00 AM
Updated: Jan 16, 2020 7:02 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (WLFI) – Cancer researchers have found groundbreaking developments while studying Tyler Trent's donated tumors.

"We might go back up to Carmel and see him dancing on his grave," said Tyler's father Tony Trent. "He would be so happy."

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine say they discovered a combination therapy that significantly slows tumor growth in models built from cells taken from Tyler Trent’s tumors.

Tyler was a Purdue University student who inspired the nation with his cancer fight. He died on New Year's Day 2019 after a long fight against an aggressive form of bone cancer. Tyler was known for his strong faith and his correct prediction that his Boilermakers would upset No. 2 Ohio State. The Purdue football team beat the Buckeyes 49-20 in October 2018.

Prior to his death, Tyler donated his tumors to researchers at IU School of Medicine. The procedure was very painful.

Researchers found a variation in Tyler’s tumors, named TT1 and TT2, called the MYC-RAD21 signature. It has been found in tumors that tend to recur.

There are two drugs that can block its effects, according to researchers. The team tested a Chk1 inhibitor and a bromodomain inhibitor.

“What we found in Tyler’s model is we can take one of these drugs, the Chk1 inhibitor or the bromodomain inhibitor, and we can administer it in models with the TT2 tumor and we get the tumors to stop growing some, compared to a control,” said Dr. Karen Pollok, lead researcher. “However, when we put the two drugs together, we block the growth of these tumors substantially.”

Pollok said the tumor started growing again after the therapy stopped. She said the treatment is tolerable to patients. 

"You could almost see it like a 'Wack-A-Mole' that you've seen at fairs," said Pollok. "You have to hit it down, and then you got to hit it over here and then you have to hit it over here. It's going to be more of a multi-phase therapy."

Tyler's parents say results like this are the reason he fought so hard.

"He didn't want a child to suffer and he didn't want a family to suffer," said Kelly Trent, Tyler's mother. "When they came to visit our house when Tyler was close to his last days, he had had a couple new tumors pop up and he said 'Do you want to take this one?' He was offering his body."

"To visualize a young man sitting there in his bed and mustering all the energy he still did was just such a motivating event for all of us," said Pollok.

While this discovery is significant, its just the first step to ultimately finding a cure.

"This is what can happen," said Tony Trent. "We all can make a difference."

The researchers’ next steps include better understanding how the tumors adapt to the treatments and optimizing the combination therapy.

You can donate to further cancer research below:

Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment for Riley Hospital

Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment at Purdue University

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