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Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation Blog

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation started because Alex believed so strongly in the power of kids helping kids. Whether it’s hitting a hole-in-one, challenging classes to a change war or cheering up SuperSibs, kids are thinking of creative ways to help the fight against childhood cancer. Here are five ways children across the country are making a difference:

by Adam Paris, ALSF

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation started because Alex believed so strongly in the power of kids helping kids. Whether it’s hitting a hole-in-one, challenging classes to a change war or cheering up SuperSibs, kids are thinking of creative ways to help the fight against childhood cancer. Here are five ways children across the country are making a difference:

1. Turning Sports Stats Into Research Dollars

Bella, an 8-year-old golfer in Illinois, is as driven to fight childhood cancer as she is to get pars on the golf course. After asking her parents about trying to help sick kids, they discovered the Champion for Kids with Cancer program, where any athlete can turn their sports accomplishments into research dollars. Now, Bella is using her budding golf career to support ALSF by accepting donations and pledges for every birdie and par she makes at tournaments. She even made custom ball markers to help raise awareness. Sign up to become a Champion for Kids with Cancer here.

2. Teach Kids About Kindness

Kids at Brook Park Early Learning Center in Lawrence, Indiana spent the school year learning all about the importance of kindness. Their teacher wanted to bring the lessons into reality, so they raised money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. They exceeded their lofty goal of $300 by raising $340 and hosting a Kindness Ball to celebrate their accomplishment. To top it off, a local police sergeant brought in $350 to add to their total and demonstrate how kindness can be repaid by others.

3. Start a Change War at School

Three elementary schools in New Jersey are reading The Lemonade War to build a community of young, enthusiastic readers. Meanwhile, everyone will be competing in a spare change war to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation while reading the inspirational book, Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand. Both books are ideal ways to integrate kids helping kids into the classroom and make a real impact for children fighting cancer. Here are several more ways to integrate ALSF into the classroom.

“Our 'One School One Book' initiative, here in Haddonfield, is all about building relationships within a community of readers. When we thought about ways we could build outside relationships that would coordinate with our book, The Lemonade War (a book about sibling relationships), we wanted to find an organization that would help our students to see how their actions could make a difference in the lives of others. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation was the perfect relationship for us, connecting both with the subject of our book choice and our goals for students,”  Katy Roussous, Language Arts Specialist at Elizabeth Haddon School.

4. Honor Alex Scott’s Memory

Madalynn, who lost her mom to cancer, wanted to teach other kids about how they can make a difference. Every year, her school puts on a wax museum of legendary leaders with reports, posters and even students dressing up as their subjects. When Madalynn learned about Alex Scott’s story, she decided to focus on ALSF’s founder for her project. She told the whole class about Alex’s vision for a world without childhood cancer and inspired her friends to sell lemonade and raise over $1,000 to continue Alex’s legacy of leadership! Read more about Alex’s story.

5. Cheer Up Amazing SuperSibs

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it can be a difficult time for the whole family, especially siblings. Making sure they feel cared for is important and a Girl Scout troop from Exton, PA recently did just that. They created beautiful cards with animals drawings and quotes to inspire SuperSibs and remind them how loved they are! One card can go a long way towards making a sibling feel extra special! Find out how kids can sign up to become SuperSibs.

 

Categories: 
Schools
Sophia

When Sophia (above) was just 4 years old, she had to have an 8-hour surgery to remove a tumor on her kidney, followed by 18 months of chemotherapy and radiation. Sophia had Wilms’ tumor, the most common kidney cancer in children.

The first signs of Wilms’ tumor—a painless swelling in the abdomen, blood in the urine, belly pain, high blood pressure or fevers—often seem to be symptoms of something much less scary. A pediatrician will recommend an abdominal ultrasound and then a diagnosis will be made. Treatment, which typically includes surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, begins. Most children, even those with higher stages of the disease can finish treatment knowing that they will most likely never battle Wilms’ tumor again.

However, being cured of Wilms’ tumor can come with a bevy of long-term side effects—loss of kidney function, bone and skeletal deformities, lung issues and more cancer.

With each year of remission, the risk of a secondary cancer increase, particularly for those who require radiation.

Dr. Julie Glade-Bender

Dr. Julie Glade-Bender

“No matter what you do, you are exposing a fair amount of a child’s body to radiation and every little bit of radiation counts, particularly in children who have already declared themselves as a ‘tumor-former’,” said Dr. Julia Glade-Bender, a member of the ALSF Scientific Advisory Board and an oncologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

Now, oncologists are studying the biological drivers of Wilms’ tumor to understand how to reach a 100% cure rate, while minimizing long-term side effects.

The cures and the side effects. 
For years, the mainstay of treatment was surgery, chemotherapy and aggressive radiation. Clinical trials have shown that chemotherapy can be shortened and radiation can be eliminated for many children with Wilms’ tumor. For those who still require it, doses of radiation have been reduced, but not enough to completely avoid potential significant long-term health risks.

Radiation can leave a child susceptible to skeletal deformities—the radiated side of the spine can grow slower than the non-radiated side. Radiation can also cause restrictive lung disease later in life and hamper an individual’s ability to breathe. It also exposes a child to the risk of more cancer.

Every cancer is different.
Under the microscope, Wilms’ tumor cells look similar to other childhood cancer cells—round blue embryonic cells.

However, the microscope does not tell the whole story.

“Every cancer is different, because every child is different,” said Dr. Glade-Bender. “The critical question is: which cure goes with which patient?”

The biology of Wilms’ tumor coupled with the biology of individual patients affected by disease are two areas of specific interest to researchers. They are working to understand the origins of the disease and also to understand why some cases of Wilms’ tumor are treatment resistant.

Researchers are performing retrospective studies and reviewing past cases of children who relapsed following frontline treatment. They are also working to study patterns of chromosomal changes that happen in children diagnosed with Wilms’ tumor.

Dr. Glade-Bender and other ALSF-funded researchers see promise in the study of developmental therapeutics, which tests and examines new treatment agents in children after standard therapy has failed. These studies have the potential to identify new drugs that can help children who relapse and provide meaningful insights into offering safer treatments from the very beginning to future children affected by cancer.

“We won’t stop searching for cures, until we are at 100%,” said Dr. Glade-Bender.

Learn more about Wilms’ tumor research and ALSF-funded projects, here.

Categories: 
Research

ALSF Innovation grantee Darrell Yamashiro works in the lab at Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Yamashiro works with Dr. Julia Bender-Glade (mentioned below) developing therapies for relapsed childhood cancer. 

by Trish Adkins

Gone are the days of just chemotherapy and radiation. Today’s researchers and oncologists are combining the traditional tools with cutting-edge biological medicine, genetic analysis and novel therapeutics in the labs and clinics. 

Childhood cancer researchers are working hard towards better treatments and more cures every single day. Here are five trends in research today:

1. Treating the patient, not just the cancer

For over 40 years, scientists have known about oncogenes, the abnormal genes that can drive the growth of abnormal cells that become cancer. Now, childhood cancer researchers are discovering more about oncogenes and finding new ways to stop the development of cancer by targeting these “bad” genes. Researchers are also studying the biology of children with cancer to determine the best way to treat cancer within their body. 

“Every cancer is different, because every child is different,” said Dr. Julia Glade-Bender, a member of the ALSF Scientific Advisory Board and an oncologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. Dr. Glade-Bender directs the Developmental Therapeutics Program at NYP, which works to identify the molecular drivers of each child’s cancer. Researchers will then use that information to personalize treatment using novel, biologically targeted agents during clinical trials.  

2. CAR T cell immunotherapy 

In August 2017, the FDA approved CAR (Chimeric Antigen Receptor) T cell immunotherapy as a treatment for certain types of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). This is the first gene therapy to achieve FDA approval in the United States and one of the few major breakthroughs and approvals for pediatric oncology in recent years. 

Like other types of immunotherapy, CAR T cell therapy harnesses a patient’s immune system to fight and destroy cancer cells. The FDA approval does not just bring hope for children battling relapsed ALL; it opens the door for more innovative research for all types of childhood cancer.

“The anticipation is that this is the first step towards changing the landscape of how we treat pediatric leukemia. The vision is that ultimately, we can remove a lot of the standard chemotherapy that we use and replace it with CAR T cell therapy. It’s not something that is going to happen overnight, but I truly believe it is where we will end up,” said Dr. Rebecca Gardner, a physician at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and ALSF Young Investigator Grantee. 

Dr. Gardner recently led a clinical trial using CAR T cell therapy as a treatment for relapsed leukemia. In her trial, 93% of patients reached remission, after struggling to reach remission using traditional leukemia treatments. 

3. Big data for big cures

Collaboration in the pediatric oncology research community has driven science closer to cures; however, with millions of disconnected data points, critical information is often filed and forgotten.

The Childhood Cancer Data Lab, powered by ALSF, is building a data refinery. This is a central location to collect, harmonize, analyze and share childhood cancer data. The data refinery will provide access to the entire field of pediatric oncology.

Researchers will quickly connect their findings to the findings of other colleagues from around the world. This allows them to identify common patterns and apply these hidden connections toward the development of new therapies to accelerate cures for children.

The data refinery is set to launch in beta in March 2018.

4. Engineering cures 

ALSF Young Investigator Grantee, Dr. Steven Jonas from UCLA is developing tools to make the delivery of treatments like CAR T cell immunotherapy, quicker and more cost-effective.  

His research project focuses on developing and applying microfluidics—the technology that makes things like ink-jet printers work—to speed up the process of altering individual children’s T cells into the immunotherapy drugs that could ultimately cure their cancer. 

Researchers are also using nanotechnology to support immunotherapy treatments. Dr. Christopher Jewel, ALSF ‘A’ Award Grantee from the University of Maryland, studied the use of nanoparticles—small biodegradable particles—in conjunction with an experimental cancer vaccine for neuroblastoma. The nanoparticles are loaded with signals that stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer. 

5. Harnessing viruses to kill cancer

Researchers have long known that cancer cells are hiding from the body’s immune system. In addition to uncovering these cells through immunotherapy, researchers are also using viruses to infect cancer cells and trick the immune system into killing cancer cells. Called oncolytic virotherapy, this cutting-edge research uses altered versions of viruses like HIV, polio and herpes to fight leukemia, brain tumors and other solid cell tumors.  

ALSF Reach Grantees, Drs. Michael Burke and Jeffrey Medin, from the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, are using a virus to treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML).  Drs. Burke and Medin take a small number of leukemia cells from a patient and infect those cells with a virus outside of the body. The virus then tricks leukemia cells into making a protein called interleukin 12 (IL-12). When IL-12 cells are returned to the patient’s body, their immune system sees the infected cells and begins attacking the leukemia cells. 

The ALSF Grants Program is designed to fill critical voids in pediatric cancer research. ALSF works to fund all phases of research through 13 different grant programs. Each potential project is given careful consideration and reviewed by a team of leading scientists and clinicians. The result: ALSF is able to power breakthroughs and move closer to cures for childhood cancer.  Learn more about the ALSF grants program here

 

Categories: 
Research

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