Purdue names new pediatric cancer research center for the late Tyler Trent

Tyler Trent (Purdue University photo)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – More than four years after Tyler Trent’s passing from the rare bone cancer osteosarcoma, Purdue University is ensuring that the memory of the former graduate and devoted Boilermaker football fan will live on through research to cure his disease and other pediatric cancers.

Today (Oct. 14), between quarters of Purdue’s Hammer Down Cancer football game against Ohio State University, Kelly and Tony Trent, Tyler’s parents, helped announce the establishment of Purdue’s new Tyler Trent Pediatric Cancer Research Center within the Purdue Institute for Cancer Research.

The announcement coincided with the five-year anniversary of Purdue’s upset win against then-No. 2 OSU, during which Tyler, and his valiant fight against cancer, were shared with a national TV audience. Despite suffering from a great deal of pain toward the end of his cancer battle, Trent was in the stands for the 2018 game. He had famously predicted an against-the-odds Boilermaker win that day and was overjoyed when Purdue beat OSU 49-20 and the crowd erupted, chanting Tyler’s name.

Tyler Trent at the Purdue-OSU football game in 2018. (Purdue University photo)

Trent died less than three months after that game, but his memory remains very much alive throughout the Purdue campus today. Andy Mesecar, the director of the cancer institute and the Walther Professor in Cancer Structural Biology, said Trent’s legacy will live on in the disease-fighting advancements of researchers dedicated to conquering his cancer and other childhood cancers.

“The Purdue Institute for Cancer Research leverages the strengths of faculty and student researchers in specialized areas of engineering, veterinary medicine, nutrition science, chemistry, pharmacy and biological sciences, applying them in new ways to better understand childhood cancers and develop new diagnostics and treatments,” said Mesecar, who also is Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and assistant vice president for research. “The new Tyler Trent center and the interdisciplinary research that take place here will set us apart from other pediatric cancer research centers. Our combination of scientific talent is uniquely Purdue.There is really nothing else like this.”

Michael Childress, professor of comparative oncology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, who will work within the new Trent center, has been researching osteosarcoma as a cancer institute researcher. He is dedicated to what he views as an urgent cause.

“A third of patients diagnosed with osteosarcoma die from it, and these are mostly adolescents. That’s a real tragedy that speaks to the need to continue to push the envelope and look for new ways to improve the outlook for those patients,” Childress said.

Childress’ work targeting fundamental cancer mechanisms has the potential to contribute to the understanding of many forms of cancer and advance their therapies. He’s currently working on a prospective drug therapy to target a specific protein that helps drive the progression of osteosarcoma and a number of other cancers in both dogs and humans. His findings hold the potential to advance therapies for those cancers.

The Trents are inspiring others with their dedication to their son’s legacy. They were among the first to support the research of the new center with a gift of $100,000. Tyler’s mother, Kelly, talked about what the new research center will do to preserve his legacy and turn the sadness of his loss into something productive and meaningful.

“There are hardly words to articulate what this means,” Kelly said. “As a parent who has lost a child, the best gift you can give me is to remember my child and celebrate him. One of Tyler’s passions, as many know, was pediatric cancer research, and to have his name attached to a center doing that work, in his honor, is absolutely priceless! Words and a thank-you to the Purdue cancer institute are just not enough. Words feel inadequate for how grateful we are as a family.”

Boilermaker fans and friends may donate to the Tyler Trent Pediatric Cancer Research Center online

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a public research institution with excellence at scale. Ranked among top 10 public universities and with two colleges in the top 4 in the United States, Purdue discovers and disseminates knowledge with a quality and at a scale second to none. More than 105,000 students study at Purdue across modalities and locations, with 50,000 in person on the West Lafayette campus. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue’s main campus has frozen tuition 12 years in a row. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap, including its first comprehensive urban campus in Indianapolis, the new Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, and Purdue Computes, at https://www.purdue.edu/president/strategic-initiatives

Writer: Amy Raley

Media contact: Trevor Peters, peter237@purdue.edu

Source: Brandt Patz, BAPatz@purdueforlife.org