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Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation Announces 2019 Innovation Grant Recipients

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Philadelphia, PA (December 18, 2019) – Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), a nonprofit dedicated to finding cures for all children with cancer, has awarded 19 Innovation Grants to leading pediatric oncologists across the country. Over the course of two years, researchers will receive $250,000 of critical funding to pursue unique projects searching for better and safer treatments and cures.

“Our studies raise the exciting possibility that TP53 mutational status could be used as a biomarker to predict non-responsiveness to T cell based immunotherapy,” said recipient Oren Becher, MD of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Becher went on to say, “By identifying biomarkers to help select which patients might benefit from immunotherapy and developing new strategies for enhancing responses among patients who might otherwise be resistant to this therapy, these studies are expected to improve both the quality and length of patients’ lives.”

Innovation Grant recipients will conduct their research at 13 top institutions across the U.S. and Canada. The projects will study various types of childhood cancers. A list of the scientists receiving grants, their institutions, co-investigators and the titles of their projects is included on the following page.

“The Innovation Grant encourages experienced researchers in the field to push for breakthroughs in childhood cancers, ultimately leading to new clinical interventions,” said Liz Scott, co-executive director of ALSF. “Each year, the recipients continue to show great promise moving us toward desperately needed cures, with important findings along the way.” 

The Innovation Grant was created to provide critical and significant seed funding for experienced researchers with novel and promising approaches to finding the causes and cures for childhood cancers. Research funded by ALSF has been featured in The New England Journal of Medicine, Blood, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Molecular Therapy, AACR Journal, Oncogene, Nature and more. In addition to Innovation Grants, ALSF funds several other grant categories to researchers on the front lines of the childhood cancer fight. For more information, visit: ALSFgrants.org.

ALSF also works toward breakthroughs in other avenues that affect childhood cancer, including clinical trial navigation. In order to identify all possible treatment options, ALSF has created a more hands-on approach to clinical trial navigation. This free service works directly with childhood cancer families and medical teams to find trials within the United States and Canada focused on the child’s particular diagnosis and cancer genomics. ALSF’s Clinical Trials Navigator acts as a liaison between the trial contacts and the family or medical team. The goal is to reduce confusion and speed up the process of identifying and enrolling a child in a trial.

2019 Innovation Grant Recipients:

Oren Becher, MD – Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Co-Investigator: Robert Wechsler-Reya, PhD
Predicting and overcoming resistance to immunotherapy in pediatric high-grade glioma

William Carroll, MD – New York University School of Medicine, NY, NY
Co-Investigator: David T. Teachey, MD
Developing drugs to treat NT5C2 mediated resistance in pediatric ALL

Dawn Chandler, PhD – Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH
Using splice switching oligonucleotides (SSOs) to target MDM2 for rhabdomyosarcoma therapy

Chun-Wei Chen – City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, CA
Co-Investigator: Lu Yang, PhD
Saturating CRISPR gene body scans in MLL-rearranged leukemia

Michael Chorny, PhD – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Co-Investigators: Garrett M. Brodeur, MD & Ivan S. Alferiev, MD/PhD
Norepinephrine transporter-targeted pharmacotherapy of aggressive neuroblastoma

Catherine Flores, PhD – University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
The use of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells to reverse treatment resistance to PD-1 blockade

William Foulkes, MD/PhD – Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, QC
Co-Investigator: Sidong Huang, PhD
Identifying targeted treatments for DICER1-associated sarcomas

Linda Hendershot, PhD – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, TN
Pediatric osteosarcoma: Identifying the elusive molecular signature and its relationship to this disease

Anna Kenney, PhD – Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Co-Investigator: Dolores Hambardzumyan, PhD
The anti-tumor immune microenvironment in the sonic hedgehog subclass of medulloblastoma

Birgit Knoechel, MD/PhD – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA
Epigenetic regulation of genomic instability and its therapeutic implications in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Corinne Linardic, MD, PhD – Duke University, Durham, NC
Co-Investigator: Yarui Diao, PhD
Role of the macro IncRNA KCNQ1OT1 in embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma tumorigenesis

Costas Lyssiotis, PhD – The Regents of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Co-Investigator: Sriram Venneti, MD/PhD
Therapeutic targeting of the disrupted metabolic state in DIPG

Meenal Mehrotra, MD, PhD – Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC
Co-Investigator: Besim Ogretmen, PhD
CD-36 Sphingosine 1-Phosphate Axis in Osteosarcoma Progression

Charles Mullighan, MD/PhD – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, TN
Co-Investigator: Hiroki Yoshihara, MD/PhD
Targeting microenvironment-induced TGFB signaling to overcome drug resistance in acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Christopher Porter, MD – Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Co-Investigators: Curtis Henry, PhD & Christopher Flowers, MD
Targeting mechanisms of Siglec15-mediated immune evasion in hematologic malignancies

Jun Qi, PhD – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA
Co-Investigator: A. Thomas Look, MD
Selectively targeting EP300 with small molecules for neuroblastoma (NB) therapy

Rosalind Segal, MD/PhD – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA
Targeting symmetric division in pediatric cancers

Wei Tong, PhD – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Co-Investigator: Junwei Shi, PhD
Identify novel, druggable targets to treat Philadelphia chromosome-like-B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Hasan Uludag – University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
Co-Investigators: Joseph Brandwein, MD & Xiaoyan Jiang, MD/PhD
Novel therapy of Heterogeneous B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia by targeting convergent oncogenic mediators STATs