Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation Blog

Breakthroughs and cures for childhood cancer are only possible through comprehensive, cutting-edge research performed by the best minds in pediatric oncology. Each year, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) provides grants to these oncology superstars—ensuring the future of research will mean safer treatments and more cures for children.

by Trish Adkins, ALSF

Breakthroughs and cures for childhood cancer are only possible through comprehensive, cutting-edge research performed by the best minds in pediatric oncology. Each year, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) provides grants to these oncology superstars—ensuring the future of research will mean safer treatments and more cures for children.

Our grants program funds all phases of research—from early career and student research to clinical trial support—through 13 different grant programs. Each potential project is given careful consideration and review by our Scientific Advisory Board, made up of leading scientists and clinicians. 

Two research grant areas: The ‘A’ Award and the Bio-Therapeutic Impact Grant programs address the full spectrum of research providing funding for early and late-career scientists who are studying hard-to-treat, high-risk cancers. The 'A' Award is designed specifically for the early independent career scientist who wants to establish a career in pediatric oncology research. The Bio-Therapeutic Impact Grant accelerates a project closer to clinical trial, bringing promising treatments to children waiting for cures. 

Meet three of our latest grant recipients and find out how they are powering breakthroughs, one research project at a time:

Fighting Neuroblastoma with Natural Killer T-Cells: Andras Heczey, MD, Baylor College of Medicine 
Dr. Heczey, a 2017 ALSF Bio-Therapeutics Impact Grantee, is developing a novel form of cancer immunotherapy for children with neuroblastoma. His therapeutic will use Natural Killer T cells (NKTs) which are part of the immune system. Their presence and/or absence could have implications in the development of cancer. Dr. Heczey altered NKTs in the lab with the hopes that these newly engineered cells could lead to the development of NKT cell-based immunotherapy for neuroblastoma, as well as have an application for other types of childhood cancer. His funded research will accelerate NKT immunotherapy closer to the clinical trial stage. 



Targeting Synovial Sarcoma: Cigall Kadoch, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute 
Dr. Kadoch, a recipient of The ‘A’ Award, is studying the genetics of synovial sarcoma, an aggressive soft-tissue malignancy that is largely resistant to conventional chemotherapy-based treatments. Synovial sarcomas all share a common chromosomal translocation—a genetic event in which two proteins abnormally fuse together in the DNA. The result is the development of abnormal cells. Dr. Kadoch will study this genetic phenomenon, work to understand the underlying mechanisms that cause it to happen and provide insights on how this translocation could be refused, with the aim of eventually developing highly-targeted drugs that can stop synovial sarcoma. 



Unpackng Leukemia: Andrew Lane, MD/PhD of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute 
Dr. Lane, a current 'A’ Award and past Young Investigator grantee, will study how DNA “unpacking” promotes acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Children diagnosed with AML have a poor survival rate. Dr. Lane believes that the physical structure of DNA could be important in leukemia development. He explained that if the DNA in a cell was stretched out, or unpacked, it would be six feet long. Yet to work properly, DNA needs to be tightly packed together into a space as small as the head of a pin. Under the microscope, leukemia DNA does not appear to be as tightly wound as it should, leading researchers to believe that problems in DNA packing can lead to the development of AML. Dr. Lane will study this phenomenon and will test if the drugs that target DNA packing can also kill leukemia cells. 

Read more about our grants programs here.

To future doctors take their childhood battle cancer out of the clinic and into the lab to find cures for childhood cancer.

Pictured: John Szigety (middle) and family

by Adam Paris, ALSF

John Szigety was diagnosed at age 10 with Hodgkin lymphoma and underwent treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital and Hackensack University Medical Center. After eight months of treatment, he suffered a relapse in early 2006, but completed treatment that June. Today, he is 11 years cancer-free. 

Amjad Shaikh was diagnosed just before his 9th birthday with leukemia and went through his entire treatment schedule at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for four years, before entering remission. Today, he is cancer-free. Amjad Shaikh

Both are childhood cancer survivors and medical school students who participated in Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s (ALSF) Pediatric Oncology Student Training (POST) grant program this past summer. They each felt the immense pride of being able to give back and help kids fight for their lives just like they did. They talked about the experience of beating cancer as kids and now, as researchers, searching for a cure.

Can you describe your work this summer as a POST student?
John Szigety (JS): I was looking at the effect of a drug on tumor progression and cell replication. The doctor I worked with at CHOP, Dr. Sarah Tasian, was investigating how to treat cancers with a specific mutation that makes the disease especially aggressive.
Amjad Shaikh (AS): I looked at CHOP and found an opportunity to study pediatric leukemia. I worked on studying mortalities associated with hospital characteristics and what a hospital can do to improve treatments or survival rates in kids fighting the same kind of cancer that I did.


Pictured: Amjad Shaikh

What was most meaningful about this experience?
JS: It was meaningful to see the different roles that a pediatric oncologist plays. As a patient, I only saw my oncologist, Dr. Steven Halpern, as a clinician. Dr. Tasian showed me how big of a role research plays in her life as a physician. That was new information to me.
AS: Part of it was that I got to see a lot of pediatric patients. The fact that I was on the other side and I understood from a clinical and medical level what was going on, I felt that maybe given a couple years I could be the person who was helping them out.

Was there a particular individual who inspired you to pursue pediatric oncology? 
JS: Dr. Halpern. When I was feeling miserable or having a bad day, he was receptive to me about how to change my regimen to make it more manageable. He would stop in my room during treatment to say hello or play board games. The cliché is that he treated me like a person and not an illness, but it's true. He's a big reason why I want to go into this field.
AS: My oncologist, Dr. Stephen Grupp. A few years after treatment, he told me he had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing treatment. It was a bit shocking because I had never seen an adult go through chemo. It left an impression that despite the fact he was going through chemo, and knowing what that was like, he still came in and treated kids. That meant a lot to me. It guided my philosophy in med school and framed my outlook for how a doctor should be. 

What did this POST opportunity and the chance to help other kids fight cancer mean to you?
JS: It was an honor. Since my diagnosis, I have wanted to help children affected by cancer. I've worked at Camp Kesem (summer camps hosted for kids whose parents have cancer), fundraised for various charities and pursued an education that brought me to medical school. The POST grant helped me contribute in another important way by investigating potential new treatments. While I didn't cure cancer or even come close, I am proud to say that I helped.
AS: It meant the world. Seeing Dr. Grupp and the team of physicians at CHOP, that’s my vision for the kind of doctor I’d like to be. 

As someone who survived childhood cancer, what does ALSF represent to you?
JS: In a word, ALSF represents hope. By supporting research across the country, ALSF represents the future of medical treatments and all the advances that are yet to come. 
AS: I think it’s a great organization for helping to develop a new generation of physicians and researchers who are going to continue these advancements. 

What are your goals and aspirations going forward?
JS: My goals are to become a pediatric oncologist and help treat children who have to fight for their lives. As a survivor, I have an understanding of how these pediatric cancer patients feel and I hope to help my future patients through the frightening and overwhelming experience of battling cancer.
AS: Especially after this summer I’m definitely set on a career in oncology. I’m not 100% sure how I want to go about it, since I'm still exploring all the specialties, but pediatric oncology is at the top of my list.

Each year, ALSF provides grants opportunities to medical students through the POST grant program. Read more about our POST grants here. 

In 2013, I shared some words of wisdom from my daughter. Now, four years later, these words are even truer and more powerful. Keep reading to see why we all believe in miracles at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and how you can help this Giving Tuesday.

by Jay Scott, Alex’s Dad

In 2013, I shared some words of wisdom from my daughter. Now, four years later, these words are even truer and more powerful. Keep reading to see why we all believe in miracles at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and how you can help this Giving Tuesday

When Alex was 6 or 7, my wife, Liz, overheard a discussion between her and her older brother Patrick. Alex asked Patrick if he believed in miracles. 

Patrick, always the thinker, took pause, and instead of awaiting his reply, Alex simply piped in and said — “I do, I mean I could wake up one day and my cancer could be gone, that would be a miracle.”

Alex was right: she had battled cancer since before the age of one, and at the time of her death in 2004, she hadn’t been cancer-free since diagnosis. Had her cancer disappeared, it certainly would have been a miracle. But I’m not here to tell you about a miracle that saved my daughter’s life; instead, I’m here to tell you about the miracle that was her life, and how her 8 ½ years of life have left an enduring impact on the lives of other children battling cancer.

Many of you have heard the story about Alex’s first surgery on her first birthday that left her without feeling in her legs and how she willed herself to walk despite it all. Some would call that a miracle. You may have also heard that after receiving a treatment that made her feel better, 4-year-old Alex became determined to help doctors find cures through a front-yard lemonade stand. Alex would raise more than $1 million in her lifetime; that could be considered a miracle too. 

For me, the true miracle is that what Alex started in our front yard continues to make a difference today, 13 years after she lost her own life to the disease. Through Alex’s determination to help others, she got her miracle, in the form of being a part of the cures for others.

You may recall the story of Edie Gilger. Like Alex, Edie was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma before she was a year old. Despite aggressive treatment, Edie’s cancer persisted. She was quickly running out of options for a cure. 

However, researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia were enrolling children in a clinical trial designed to treat children with a specific abnormal gene called “anaplastic lymphoma kinase” (ALK). ALK drives the development of cancer. Edie was ALK-positive and she was enrolled in the trial. 

Doctors used a drug called crizotinib, which was already FDA-approved to treat lung cancer in adults. Crizotinib turns off the ALK gene and in turn, stops cancerous cells from multiplying. When crizotinib is effective, cancer disappears. 

For Edie, that is exactly what happened. Edie is now 8 years old. Instead of spending her days in the hospital, Edie is in second grade and loves dancing, gymnastics and playing the ukulele. Edie does not have lingering side effects from her treatment. 

Edie is cancer-free. 

For Edie, through research that was funded by the Foundation my daughter started, her miracle happened: she woke up one day and her cancer was gone.

This is just one story of one child with one specific type of cancer. But this breakthrough continues to make the difference for other children who are ALK-positive. And it continues to spur researchers forward as they look for custom, precision treatments driven by the genetic makeup of the cancers that children are battling. 

As we get ready to turn the page on yet another year, the words of my daughter reverberate in my mind; miracles are possible through hard work and determination. We are making progress finding better treatments and cures for all kids with cancer, but we have such a long way to go. Alex knew how powerful hope was. We shouldn’t stand in its way. She believed that she would get her miracle, and although it wasn’t the cure she had dreamed of for herself, her vision of helping others has been fulfilled.

I hope wherever you are and however you helped in the fight against childhood cancer, you will continue to do so for years to come, day in and day out. After all, as Albert Einstein said:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

How you can help this Giving Tuesday
As Alex's supporters, you exemplify the spirit of giving miracles throughout the year. Whether it's during Alex's Lemonade Days, Alex's Million Mile or any ALSF event, your compassion is bringing us closer to a cure every day. Now, we have something big planned for the most generous day of the year, Giving Tuesday, and you can be a part of it!

We're asking dedicated members of Team Alex to set up a Facebook fundraising page to support Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation this Giving Tuesday. Even if you have not created a Facebook fundraiser before, we have all the resources you need to get started. 

Watch this video for an easy tutorial on how to set up your page. 

Once your Facebook fundraising page is set to support Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, all you have to do is share the page on November 28th on Facebook and encourage everyone to give! Think of it as a virtual lemonade stand and you will be amazed how impactful your fundraiser can be. 

And if you want to simply donate, just head to our Facebook page and make a Giving Tuesday donation there! 

Together, we can make a huge difference by providing more funds and awareness for kids fighting cancer everywhere.

Alex Scott