As part of its mission to find “a cure for all children with cancer,” Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation recently announced more than $7 million in new grants to researchers around the country, including four at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Children’s Hospital investigators Garrett Brodeur, MD, Michael Hogarty, MD, Richard Aplenc, MD, and Robert Schnepp, MD, PhD, all received grants from the organization, for a total of $800,000 in cancer research funding.
Originally started in 2000 by then 4-year-old Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004) as a lemonade stand to raise money for cancer research, over the years Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) has evolved into a robust national organization. Since its inception, ALSF has raised more than $60 million to fund over 300 groundbreaking research projects. The foundation has had a close relationship with Children’s Hospital since 2001, when the Scott family moved to the Philadelphia area so Alex’s neuroblastoma could be treated at CHOP.
The recent ALSF grants fell into three categories: Innovation Awards, Young Investigator Awards, and Epidemiology Awards. Drs. Brodeur and Hogarty each received Innovation Awards, which “provide critical and significant seed funding for experienced investigators with a novel and promising approach to finding causes and cures for childhood cancers.” Innovation award grantees receive $250,000 over two years.
Dr. Brodeur’s award will fund his investigation of using nanoparticles to deliver therapeutic agents. “In an era of extremely tight funding from the NIH, this grant is HUGE for us to continue some very exciting work on targeted nanoparticle delivery of conventional chemotherapy to both increase efficacy and decrease toxicity,” Dr. Brodeur said. “We are confident that this work will lead to longer term funding and a clinical trial, with the preliminary data made possible by ALSF.”
For his part, Dr. Hogarty will study the epigenetics of the childhood cancer neuroblastoma. Often appearing as a solid tumor in a child’s chest or abdomen, neuroblastoma is one of the deadliest pediatric cancers, causing 10 to 15 percent of all cancer-related deaths despite only comprising 7 percent of childhood cancers.
Dr. Aplenc, meanwhile, was the recipient of an Epidemiology Award, and will receive $200,000 over two years. The grant will support a project that seeks to “improve the effectiveness of cooperative use trials by using administrative clinical data from approximately 100 hospital sites.” By merging data from several sources, Dr. Aplenc and his team will be able “to study resource utilization questions that previously could not be studied and will allow estimation of inpatient hospital costs” associated with clinical trial treatment regimens, he said.
And last but not least, Dr. Schnepp received a Young Investigator Award, one “designed to fill the critical need for start up funds for new researchers and physicians to pursue promising research ideas.” Currently an instructor and attending physician working in the laboratory of John M. Maris, MD, Dr. Schnepp has been investigating what role the protein LIN28B plays in neuroblastoma.
Saying that he was “extremely grateful” for the $100,000, two-year ALSF grant, Dr. Schnepp noted “this funding will allow us to continue our efforts to understand how LIN28B, a gene that promotes neuroblastoma, actually carries out its cancer-promoting function.”
“We will do our utmost to better understand how LIN28B functions, with the ultimate aim of improving treatment for neuroblastoma and perhaps other cancers,” he added.