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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Cancer researchers using Tyler Trent’s tumor inspired by his donation

A tumor removed from Tyler Trent in May 2017 immediately went into research to help fight the disease and his spirit keeps those researchers going.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - When Tyler Trent suffered a relapse of osteosarcoma in May 2017, doctors at Riley Hospital for Children removed a tumor from his pelvis. Tissue samples taken from that tumor are now providing the models for groundbreaking pediatric cancer research in Indianapolis.

The Purdue student from Carmel who is fighting a rare bone cancer inspired a Purdue football upset of Ohio State and made national television appearances. Tyler received the Sagamore of the Wabash for distinguished Hoosiers. He even got his own bobblehead doll.

Tyler also raised an individual fundraising record of more than $101,000 for the Riley Dance Marathon for cancer research. But his greatest donation for the cause may be his tumor.

A cancerous cell line from Tyler's tumor grows in a flask in the Wells Center for Pediatric Research.

"What he may not realize is that even his tumor models will not only help us, but they will be an opportunity to help people all around the world in ways that I think we haven't even been able to conceive of yet," said Dr. Jamie Renbarger, director of Riley Precision Genomics.

Dr. Reza Saadatzadeh was in the operating room in May 2017 to receive the biopsy of Tyler's tumor, which the cancer researcher took immediately from Riley Hospital for Children right across the street to the Wells Center to be implanted in mice. Tyler's passion for raising awareness for cancer research inspires the team doing the work in the laboratory.

"He looks like my son for me," said Dr. Saadatzadeh, Wells Center cancer researcher, fighting back tears. "Really, I mean it. His name is different. He's from another country. He's from another culture, another race. It doesn't matter. He is in a very hard physical situation and he still has the hope. So, this is beautiful. I mean how can I not have hope with this healthy body. You know, this is wonderful."

"He has number one really given a voice to young folks in the state of Indiana who have cancer," said Karen Pollok, Wells Center cancer researcher. "He has provided really a forum for discussion. He's really going to leave a legacy in terms of how we talk about cancer and how we discuss it with families."

Even in home hospice care, Tyler spreads a message of hope for cancer breakthroughs with his active presence on social media. Meanwhile, researchers use not just Tyler's body tissue, but his spirit to find new and better treatments for pediatric cancer.

"As a researcher, we need to be involved in this kind of spiritual things because it gives us more power, more strength to work harder," said Dr. Saadatzadeh.

Riley Children's Foundation, along with Tyler and his family, have created the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment for Riley Hospital. You can donate here.

This is in addition and separate from the cancer research endowment already started at Purdue.