ALSF Awards Inaugural Bridge Grants In Response to Decreased Government Funding

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Awards given to researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Columbia University Medical Center

Philadelphia, PA (March 1, 2012) – In response to the steady decrease in research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) has responded with the awarding of Bridge Grants to three promising pediatric cancer researchers. Dr. Tom Look and Dr. Kimberly Stegmaier of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Dr. Adolfo Ferrando of Columbia University Medical Center will be the inaugural recipients of Bridge Grant funding, designed as a lifeline for projects that received excellent scores but did not receive funding from the NIH. In an effort to keep the projects of these researchers on track while they reapply for funding, ALSF’s Bridge Grants will provide each recipient with $100,000 over a 12 month period.

At the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Tom Look will examine why first-line therapy for children with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) continues to fail in approximately 25% of children diagnosed. After the initial failure, these patients face a very poor prognosis, and Look’s team hopes to improve the targeted therapy of this high risk subset of T-ALL patients.

“The successful completion of these studies will revolutionize therapy for this subset of children with high-risk T-ALL, which accounts for 62% of induction failures as well as 19% of relapses in pediatric T-ALL,” says Dr. Look.

Dr. Look’s colleague, Dr. Kimberly Stegmaier will focus on the search for new therapies for patients with Ewing sarcoma, a cancerous tumor that grows in bones or soft tissue near bones. Her team will look to develop a generic strategy for identifying chemical modulators of the myriad of other difficult to target cancer-promoting proteins in pediatric malignancies.

“Bridge funding is sought to enable initiating these discovery efforts, which in turn will provide a strong basis for seeking more extensive NIH grant support within 12 months,” says Dr. Stegmaier.

Finally, Dr. Adolfo Ferrando of the Columbia University Medical Center will analyze the role of the NOTCH1 gene in the development of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), an aggressive hematologic cancer, with the goal of improving targeted therapy for children battling the disease. The experiments will aim to improve understanding of the oncogenic mechanisms mediating NOTCH1-induced transformation and will set the basis for the rational development of new anti-NOTCH1 therapies against T-ALL.

“These three researchers are all strong investigators, who in an ideal environment and with the right funding, will accomplish what they propose in their research plans,” says Jay Scott, Co-Executive Director of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and Alex’s Dad. “With the amount of funding the NIH directs to childhood cancer continuing to be a concern, we want to be sure that their research moves forward, because the fact remains that children with cancer need new treatments now.”

With a mission of finding better treatments and ultimately cures for all kids with cancer, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s aim is to fund the best research. Childhood cancer is already receiving a low percentage of the NIH’s budget, and in response to the recent funding decrease, the Foundation implemented this new Bridge Grant mechanism to sustain funding for promising NIH childhood cancer research applications through the period until they are re-submitted.

The Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation Bridge Grants join the Foundation’s successful and innovative pediatric research and nursing grant programs. The Foundation awards medical research grants to leading hospitals and institutions, as well as grants to nurses examining better ways to care for children undergoing cancer treatment. To date, ALSF has funded over 200 research grants at nearly 70 institutions in North America.

About Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) emerged from the front yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004). At the age of 4, Alex announced that she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer. Since Alex held that first stand, the Foundation bearing her name has evolved into a national fundraising movement, complete with thousands of supporters across the country carrying on her legacy of hope. To date, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 charity, has raised more than $50 million toward fulfilling Alex’s dream of finding a cure, funding over 200 research projects nationally including those examining leukemia, brain tumors, neuroblastoma, Wilm's tumor, lymphoma, and osteosarcoma among others.