Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation Blog

Figure legend: Shown is a chicken egg after using the Egg Topper. The membrane that lies under the shell is where we place fluorescent tumor cells to test their ability to move through blood and lymphatic vessels into the developing chick. Our hope is to find a number of drugs that slow or reverse the process of tumor cells metastasizing from one location to the next.

In 2008 we had an idea: we should try to identify drug treatments that help prevent the spread of tumor cells throughout the body, or at a minimum treat the cancer if it does spread. How could we go about doing this?

Tumor cells moving from one place in the body to another is a multi-step process. First, the tumor cell unattaches from its original location, Next it moves into a blood vessel or lymphatic channel and moves about the body. Finally the tumor cell exits the blood vessel and comes to rest at its final destination somewhere else in the body. Research of this complex process requires more than test tubes or petri dishes: for better or worse, this type of research needs to involve preclinical models (traditional research might use mice).

In 1962, Sidney Farber was investigating whether metastatic tumor cells from childhood cancer patients could move from the membrane under the shell of ordinary chicken eggs into the developing chick within the egg. This was a promising idea, as fertilized chicken eggs were inexpensive, and the assay (examination) takes only 12 days to complete. With over 45 years having passed since Farber’s investigation, and few pharmaceutical companies adopting this method to test anti-metastasis drugs, it seemed that many hurdles may lay ahead. This may have seemed like a high risk endeavor, but one that we believed in, and was embraced by Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation through an Innovation Award.

To date, we have overcome most technical hurdles of the assay by adapting modern genetic tools, new biomaterials for encapsulating of tumor cells, and new advances in imaging technology. We’ve also begun testing some novel new therapeutic agents. Of them, we are most intrigued by the effects of drugs that inhibit the metabolism of fast-twitch (anaerobic) muscle, which seems to have a particularly strong effect on the less curable form of the childhood muscle cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma.

So where do we go from here? The traditional answer might be we select the promising agents from the egg screening tests, write NIH grants to propose testing these drugs on other preclinical models (the grant review process can take more than a year from start to finish), and then see whether it is reasonable or feasible to move these drugs to clinical trials. Yet there are also surprising opportunities, too, made possible by ALSF – who is arranging introductions to pharmaceutical companies to accelerate the testing of new drugs for childhood cancer. ALSF is an exciting catalyst for innovation and new paradigms. Through the efforts of a group like ALSF, change can be tangible.

For more information about our research, please visit our blog at .


Charles Keller, MD
Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute

As you may know, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation recently announced our 1 Million Member Mission on our Facebook Cause. While we have seen a great response since that time, we thought offering an incentive wouldn’t hurt! An anonymous donor came forward and offered an Apple iPod touch 8GB for ALSF to award to the top recruiter one month from today (April 6, 2009). In addition to the top recruiter, every person who recruits over 50 friends will receive an official Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation t-shirt!

So from now until Monday, April 6, 2009 at 12PM EST, invite all of your friends, and then re-invite them until they join the ALSF cause. This is your chance to get the word out about childhood cancer, while also potentially winning an iPod!

Sometimes as parents it is easier to say “no” than to give in to our children’s desires and silly requests. For two years, my husband Peter and I took the easy route and redirected our son’s resilient requests to hold a lemonade stand by telling him it was “too hot out” or “no one would come.” Despite our consistent “today is not a good day” answers, our son P.J. would load up the cooler with pitchers and cups and pretend he was holding a stand to help “the sick kids” he saw on TV. Then, while on vacation in January we enjoyed a bottle of Alex’s Lemonade and knew it was a sign that it was time to give in and help P.J. organize a stand. We are so glad we did. Hosting an ALS was a lesson-filled experience for our whole family. It was simple and a wonderful way to engage children in philanthropy.

Thanks to the ALSF and to Alex's vision, 5-year-old P.J. learned so many wonderful lessons as host of his first Alex's Lemonade Stand. He is a fantastic marketer! P.J. gave fliers to everyone he saw - from the local Safeway staff to neighbors, and even the baristas at Starbucks! We saw first hand his dedication at work. P.J. picked lemons, squeezed them and staffed his stand until the very end! He did not complain or whine -but kept going. He did this not because we told him to, but because the stand was his idea! And the most character building moment for P.J. was when a reporter asked him what he was going to do with all the money he raised and his response was: "I am going to send it to the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. They know what to do with it. They will give it to help the kids with cancer and their families."

While fundraising and altruism are in our family genes, it was still so inspiring for us to watch little P.J. make a big difference...that resulted in $1,229 in donations!

Thanks to super TV and print publicity, P.J. received letters and contribution checks from several nearby senior citizens who could not make the drive out to enjoy a cup. One letter was from an 84-year-old man who praised P.J. for his good deeds with the most thoughtful and beautiful sentiments. This letter, along with the memories of P.J.’s first ALS, will be cherished by our family forever.

Thank you to Mr. & Mrs. Scott for giving children like P.J. the opportunity celebrate Alex’s life and in P.J.'s words, "to help kids with cancer feel better."

P.J. has already announced that next President's Day he is going to host another stand!

Hopefully, we will have mastered the recipe for fresh squeezed lemonade by then!

-Donna Bartos