June 2, 2006

Grants to aid childhood cancer efforts

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Alex Scott’s fight against childhood cancer has become a fund-raising force.

Grants to aid childhood cancer efforts

When life gave Alex Scott lemons, she chose to make lemonade.

After being diagnosed with cancer, the Pennsylvania child set up a lemonade stand in her front yard, igniting an effort that has since raised millions of dollars to aid pediatric cancer research for all children facing the disease.

Alex's Lemonade Stand For Childhood Cancer raised money for four years until she succumbed to her disease at age 8 in 2004.

Alex's parents never let go of her dream, and Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation continues to foster research to treat and, perhaps one day, cure childhood cancer. It's become a national fund-raising movement that has brought more than $6 million so far.

The foundation has awarded a Pediatric Oncology Translational Research Award and a Young Investigator Award to two doctors from the Childhood Cancer Program at Vanderbilt. The two-year grants total $260,000.

"We are very proud to award Vanderbilt Children's with two research grants," said Liz Scott, Alex's mother and vice president of Development for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.

"The growth of Alex's Lemonade Stand from our front yard to thousands of stands nationally continues to amaze and inspire us every day. We are committed to supporting outstanding research in hopes of fulfilling Alex's dream of finding a cure for childhood cancer."

James Whitlock, M.D., director of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, received a two-year $200,000 Pediatric Oncology Translational Research Award. The award will help fund support personnel to speed up the process of enrolling children with cancer in clinical trials.

“Early phase clinical trials are quite labor-intensive and expensive, and lack of funding can be prohibitive for studies which may only enroll a handful of patients at a single institution,” Whitlock said.

“These funds will allow us to pursue more options, and open up more opportunities for children who have no other good options to enroll in clinical trials.”

Michael Engel, M.D., Ph.D., a third-year fellow in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, received the Young Investigator Award in the amount of $60,000 for research on “MTG-16 Regulation by Phosphorylation.” The grant provides funds for new researchers and physicians to pursue promising research ideas.

“To be recognized by a private foundation that grew out of the generous spirit of a child is fantastic,” Engel said. “Our group is working to identify enzymes that regulate the function of translocation fusion proteins characteristic of acute myeloid leukemia.

This is a first step to identifying new targets for therapeutic development for this very serious, and often fatal disease. The support from Alex's Lemonade Stand will allow us to pursue this goal with greater efficiency, leveraging advances in genomics and proteomics.”

Awards were given to several other top national pediatric cancer research centers.

“We are fortunate to have received two awards from this foundation,” said Whitlock. “We are very grateful to the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, and we hope that this is the beginning of a longstanding relationship.”

For more information about Alex's Lemonade Stand, visit www.alexslemonade.org.