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

Zoya Virani looks on as her brother Faris Virani presents a piggy bank with $1000 of his own money to Dr. Jason Yustein, director of the Faris D. Virani Ewing Sarcoma Center— Farid Virani and Dr. David Poplack, director of Texas Children’s Cancer Center look on

 Gift honors son’s battle with rare form of cancer

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.

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.

 

Hermann Park