Childhood Cancer

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is cancer of the white blood cells, the cells that help fight infection. ALL is the most common form of childhood leukemia.

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Latest Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) grants

Andrei Thomas-Tikhonenko, PhD, Principal Investigator
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Innovation Grants, Awarded 2017
Linda Resar, MD & Andrei Thomas-Tikhonenko, PhD, Principal Investigator
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Innovation Grants, Awarded 2017
Jordan Jacobelli, PhD, Principal Investigator
National Jewish Health
Innovation Grants, Awarded 2017

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) Heroes

Latest Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) blog posts

December 2, 2017

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.

December 1, 2017

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. 

October 30, 2017

Relapsed Pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has a notoriously low remission rate—but now, thanks to childhood cancer researchers and the FDA, there is more hope on the horizon. 

In August 2017, the FDA approved CAR (Chimeric Antigen Receptor) T Cell immunotherapy as a treatment for certain types of 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.  

We spoke with Dr. Rebecca Gardner, a physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital and ALSF Young Investigator grantee about the significance of this FDA approval. 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. 

Why is the FDA approval so exciting?

Dr. Gardner (RG) A few things make it so exciting: First, it is rare to get an initial approval of a drug for a pediatric oncology indication. Second, this is a therapy that we have all been waiting a long time for– a targeted therapy with very little long-term side effects and is highly effective. It moved quickly from initial studies to FDA approval. 

 What is the long-term implication of this approval for leukemia treatment?
(RG) 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.
How could this approval accelerate research of immunotherapy treatments for other types of relapsed pediatric cancer? 

(RG) It continues to bring greater awareness to this type of therapy and the potential for its efficacy. It will be used by more researchers in the field so that we can continue to develop immunotherapy for additional pediatric tumors. 

Read more about Dr. Gardner and CAR T Cell immunotherapy: