UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital received a $200,000 grant for pediatric cancer research Wednesday.
Dr. Paul Castillo, a pediatric oncologist at UF Health, won the research grant from the Hyundai Hope on Wheels Foundation and hopes to find a cure for childhood cancer with it.
Young patients left their painted handprints on a commemorative car during the Gainesville celebration. Among those leaving their mark was Isabella Ramirez, a former patient of Castillo’s.
“It’s amazing because [Castillo] was the one who pretty much cured my cancer as far as I’m concerned,” Ramirez said. “And now, I kind of get to give back to him a little bit.”
Four years ago, Ramirez was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 17. Now, she’s cancer-free and living in Tampa.
“It’s very comforting knowing that other patients like me are getting the research they need in order for us to have better treatments, so they don’t have to go through everything that I went through,” Ramirez said.
Castillo’s eyes are set on the future with the new grant, but he recalls the impact that Ramirez left on him.
“Having seen her in the hospital with all the side effects from chemotherapy without hair, now she has beautiful hair, and now she has a whole life in front of her,” Castillo said.
Castillo hopes the grant money will help his research reach clinical trials next year.