Park Ridge Cancer Patient Grants Researchers, Tours Lab At Lurie Children's

Lisa Fielding
September 17, 2019 - 1:52 pm
A Park Ridge teenager battling brain cancer is getting a first hand look at where his fundraising money is going.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- When Benny Martinez was 11, he was the top fundraiser in a St. Baldrick's event at his middle school. Days after the event, he, himself was diagnosed with medulloblastoma brain cancer.

"We were in on vacation for Spring Break, we ended up in the emergency room and they found a brain tumor, which was shocking," said Michelle Martinez, Benny's mother. "He started treatment, then 6 months later, he was diagnosed with radiation necrosis, a severe side effect of the treatment itself." 

The necrosis paralyzed him from the neck down, but Michelle Martinez said her son continued to fundraise.

"In his involvement with St. Baldrick's, he established a hero fund and has been working hard to do fundraising even before he was diagnosed. He actually funded another research study a couple of years ago. Now we've partnered with Lurie Children's Hospital," she said.

The foundation granted Dr. Simone Shredni and her research team $100,000.

Tuesday, Benny and his family finally met with Dr. Shredni, got a tour of the labs, and learned about where his money is going and how it's making a difference for other children like him.

A Park Ridge teenager battling brain cancer is getting a first hand look at where his fundraising money is going.
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"We are focusing on introducing a new drug candidate that has the potential to provide a safe and effective protective treatment for pediatric brain tumors," Dr. Shredi said.

"It's literally to improve other kids that may have the same condition as Benny. It's related to his own condition and to what we can do in our efforts to improve the quality of life. It's very special." 

The drug trials are now going into adult clinical trials and eventually pediatric trials.

Dr. Simone Shredni
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"This drug is one of those projects that will happen soon. I have mixed feelings, because this all starts with pain and challenges, but that's my job to hopefully eliminate the pain and look for cures and prevention for cancers and side effects," Dr. Shredi said.

"He's tickled pink that we could be part of the whole research project that applies so specially to his situation and the grant is in his name. It was the radiation side affect that has been so debilitating to him."

Dr. Simone Shredni and Benny Martinez
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"As an adult, we always donate money and we always think, well, where does it really go? Seeing this, seeing the money really getting distributed to cancer and pediatrics and it's really exciting for us. Benny started this before he had cancer, but we're going to keep going," said Eduardo Martinez, Benny's father.

Benny is now a sophomore in high school, goes to class three days a week, and goes to therapy the other two days. His mother said he's always loved science, so he's thrilled to continue making strides in cancer research.

"I have a fantastic picture from the first grade. He dressed up as the mad scientist. He loves science. All of his classmates from chemistry will be jealous that he got to come visit the lab," Michelle Martinez said.

The Baldrick’s Foundation Benicio Martinez Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research has raised more than nearly $300,000.

"We're hoping something comes out of this research so the whole world knows who Benny is," Eduardo Martinez said.