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Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), a national nonprofit foundation devoted to finding cures for all children with cancer, announces the latest grant award recipients of their Crazy 8 Initiative. The 2022 recipients will receive grants totaling more than $6 million, exceeding the original $25 million funding commitment to the Crazy 8 Initiative from ALSF to $26 million.
Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children in the United States, and the Crazy 8 Initiative is poised to change the trajectory of pediatric oncology and cure the uncurable. To compete for a Crazy 8 initiative, teams are required to bring together top experts across disciplines to solve the biggest problems in childhood cancer.
The first four grants awarded from the Crazy 8 Initiative funded innovative research that addressed topics of drugging the undruggable and the developmental origins of cancer for Ewing sarcoma, neuroblastoma, high risk leukemias, and medulloblastoma. This year, the Initiative has awarded an additional two projects that focus on developing a new understanding of, and treatments to, osteosarcoma.
Osteosarcoma is a type of childhood bone cancer, and with little advancements in treatment over four decades, it is imperative that funds are dedicated to researching and curing it.
When osteosarcoma metastasizes, and spreads to other parts of the body, it is most commonly in the lungs.
“There are really no curative options once a child has metastatic disease,” said Rani George MD/PhD from Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Principal Investigator for one of the Crazy 8 teams.
With most cancer research dedicated to adult treatment, and the biology of children being so as well as pediatric cancers being unique, the need for more invested research for pediatric cancer is vital.
There are two teams that were awarded Crazy 8 grants of $3 million each to study osteosarcoma:
The team led by Rani George, MD/PhD from Dana Farber Cancer Institute, will work to understand gene behavior in osteosarcoma.
The challenge, according to Dr. Rani George, is three-fold: the common genetic changes in osteosarcoma are known but not understood; the steps that drive the development of metastatic lesions are not known; and lastly, the few identified drivers of metastatic osteosarcoma are not druggable, with available therapies.
Dr. George’s team, hailing from five different institutions, will use innovative technology to rewire specific cancer gene connections making them more susceptible to targeted treatments, with the hope of ultimately leading to cancer cell death and a cure.
“The prospect is really bright. If we can look into the mechanisms of this cancer, we will be able to identify ways to treat children,” said Dr. George.
Principal Investigator Alejandro Sweet-Cordero, MD, of the University of California San Francisco, aims to understand the makeup of each cell within an osteosarcoma tumor. By using their new technology called a “molecular time machine,” the team will identify and isolate cells enabling early intervention that will change the fight against osteosarcoma. His team includes researchers from four different institutions with specialties in molecular pathology and oncology.
“The Crazy 8 grants brought people together, motivating all of use to be part of a bigger effort,” said Dr. Sweet-Cordero.
With the grant funds from ALSF, doctors hope to find innovative and safe new treatments and regimens that will allow osteosarcoma patients to not only beat cancer, but to live a safe and healthy life long after the effects of cancer have receded.
About the Crazy 8 Initiative In the spirit of growing scientific collaboration, ALSF launched the Crazy 8 Initiative to detail roadmaps toward cures for specific, hard-to-treat childhood cancers. In addition to its current grant opportunities, the Crazy 8 Initiative creates a new funding pillar for ALSF, allowing the Foundation to tackle explicit challenges in pediatric cancer research that require substantial support for collaborative teams. The Crazy 8 Initiative funds research into innovative and rigorous approaches that directly address the most intractable issues in pediatric cancer research today. The Crazy 8 Initiative Award is designed to coalesce cross-disciplinary cores of scientists working collaboratively in order to accelerate the pace of new cure discovery, and these grants provide funding for large-scale collaborative projects in the $1-5 million range. ALSF has committed $26 million to support the Crazy 8 Initiative. For information on the awarded Crazy 8 projects, visit AlexsLemonade.org/Crazy-8-Initiative-Projects.