New Progress Against Cancer: Tyler's Legacy

You don’t have to be a scientist to understand these things:

If you want to cure cancer, you have to test new techniques.

The best way to see if drugs kill cancer is to test them on actual, living cancer cells.

To do this research, you need cancer patients with big hearts to provide tumor samples.

Thanks to the incredible gifts of Riley cancer patients including the late Tyler Trent of Carmel, Ind., cancer researchers with Riley Precision Genomics are making promising progress.

During his battle with relapsed osteosarcoma, Tyler provided samples of his tumor, which he named TT2. That’s where Karen Pollok, Ph.D., comes in. Her cancer research team at the Wells Center for Pediatric Research is funded by Riley Children’s Foundation donors including Tyler himself, and is also part of the Riley Precision Genomics program. The investigators first work to find out the molecular profiles of tumor samples like Tyler’s, then recreate the tumors in mice, and finally test drugs that seem most likely to impact that tumor based on the genetic information. 

Dr. Pollok’s lab receives a number of tumor specimens from Riley Hospital patients each year. Research with patient samples is highly regulated and the researchers do not know from whom the tumor specimens come from. Occasionally, a patient and the family want to know what research is being conducted with their child’s sample. Once the family gives permission, the sample can be linked to the patient and an update provided to the family. This is what happened in Tyler’s case. Here is the latest update Dr. Pollok’s team provided to Tyler’s family:  When the research team saw that Tyler’s TT2 tumor had a specific gene amplification on chromosome 8, they came up with a novel therapy to target it. They tested two different drugs against the tumor, as well as a combination of both drugs.  

It turns out, the combination of the two drugs worked best. Even better, the drugs were well-tolerated, and no toxic side effects were found.

Tyler Trent Research

TT2 Graph 



Once Riley discoveries like these are published, they’re shared with physicians and researchers around the globe and can lead to clinical trials that put new drug therapies on the market. This particular study involving the TT2 osteosarcoma model has been submitted for publication and is under review. Dr. Pollok emphasizes there is still much work to be done. Other osteosarcoma models developed from Riley Hospital patients have been identified that have the same amplification on chromosome 8, and these are also being tested.  

This kind of progress in the fight against cancer was Tyler’s dream. As he said, “My drive revolves around the legacy I leave…the chances of me living to see cancer eradicated or us find a cure are pretty low, but hopefully 100 years down the line, maybe my legacy could have an impact toward that.”

Philanthropic support is a critical factor driving pediatric research progress at Riley Hospital. To make your personal gift in support of Riley research, visit or

Dr. Pollok with Tony and Kelly Trent

Riley Cancer Investigator Karen Pollok, Ph.D., updates Tony and Kelly Trent on progress being made using their late son Tyler's tumor.

Tony & Kelly Trent

Tony and Kelly Trent share an embrace with Riley Cancer Researcher Reza Saadatzadeh, Ph.D., who is testing drugs on their late son Tyler's tumor.


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