July 17, 2009

‘Lemonade stand’ grant refreshes cancer research

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James Whitlock, M.D.

‘Lemonade stand’ grant refreshes cancer research

Two Vanderbilt Medical Center cancer researchers have been awarded grants totaling $400,000 by the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer.

A two-year Program Infrastructure Award of $100,000 per year was given to James Whitlock, M.D., Craig-Weaver Professor of Pediatrics. The award was one of only four such grants awarded nationally.

“Kids with cancer need new drugs, because the old drugs don’t cure everybody,” Whitlock said. “The trials to do those drugs are complex and expensive. So this foundation has decided they can help by providing money for some of the fixed costs, such as research nursing support and data management, that clinical trials require.”

Josiana Eid, M.D., assistant professor of Cancer Biology, was given a $100,000, two-year Innovation Award, which provides funding for experienced investigators with a “novel and promising approach” to finding cures for childhood cancer.

Eid’s research focuses on synovial sarcomas, which are soft-tissue cancers of the muscle, blood vessels, fat and other supporting tissues.

“The ALSF grant will allow us to examine the importance of Wnt activation in synovial sarcoma and will validate this pathway as a key target for sarcoma therapy in the near future,” Eid said.

Vanderbilt also was one of 10 centers in the nation approved by the foundation to participate in its Travel Fund program, which helps families of patients in clinical trials with costs such as airline travel, gas cards, hotels and food.

“We have consistently demonstrated that the program we’ve developed here offers people many options, and that we can perform high quality, innovative clinical trials in the context of true family-centered care,” Whitlock said.

The foundation grew from a lemonade stand opened by young cancer patient Alexandra (Alex) Scott, who wanted to raise money to help cure childhood cancer. Alex died in 2004 at age 8, but the foundation so far has raised more than $25 million for childhood cancer research.

“Vanderbilt University has consistently impressed us with their commitment to both pediatric oncology research and clinical trials,” said Jay Scott, Alex’s father and executive director of ALSF. We are very proud to be supporting Drs. Whitlock and Eid and their efforts to improve the treatments and, ultimately, the lives of children with cancer.”