A University of Colorado Cancer Center member is one of the first scientists to receive a Reach Award from Alex's Lemonade Stand. It is a new grant category for childhood cancer researchers at leading institutions across the country. The grants are designed to overcome the significant barriers that impede the translation of innovative and important research ideas from the lab to the clinic.
Doug Graham, MD, PhD, is one of 12 researchers in the U.S. to receive the two-year, $250,000 award. He will use the award to investigate whether a novel inhibitor called UNC2025 can interrupt Mer receptor tyrosine kinase in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and prevent resistance to other therapies.
The project focuses on studies to determine the therapeutic activity of UNC2025 by itself and in combination with chemotherapy using mouse models derived from ALL patient samples. They will also develop biomarkers of therapeutic response with UNC2025. The studies will provide critical data to enable further development of this drug for use in clinical trials in the next two years.
“The funding from the Alex’s Lemonade Stand will provide crucial funding for our research team to complete preclinical testing and validation of UNC2025 as a novel therapeutic agent for pediatric ALL, said Graham. “This drug has the potential to provide greater targeted efficacy against pediatric leukemia with less toxic side effects than standard chemotherapeutic agents.”
Lia Gore, MD, CU Cancer Center member and physician at Children’s Hospital Colorado, also is the recipient of an award from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Gore received a Phase I/II Infrastructure Grant to accelerate early phase research efforts, increase patient participation and speed up completion of studies. The grant provides $625,000 over the course of five years. Additionally, to sustain the momentum, at the close of the initial five-year grant period, the Foundation will match the project’s institutional fundraising for a subsequent five years.
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary at Children’s Colorado, the Experimental Therapeutics Program (ETP) within the Center for Cancer for Blood Disorders was Gore’s brain child. ETP was created to support the development of and enhance access to the most promising new cancer therapies for children, adolescents and young adults.
“Unfortunately, for some with very difficult-to-treat cancers, standard therapy is ineffective,” said Gore. “We are the only program of this type in a 12-state region. We conduct phase I and II trials of new cancer treatments that are promising in early studies, but not yet widely available.”
Since its inception, ETP has drawn patients from 40 states and 19 foreign countries for consultation and treatment and has one of the largest and most active phase I portfolios in North America.
The mission of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation remains to find better treatments and ultimately cures for all childhood cancers. Recognizing that clinical trials are imperative to moving innovative cures and treatments forward, the Foundation focuses several grant categories on supporting late translational studies to ultimately initiate a clinical trial. Along with the Reach Grant, the Centers of Excellence Program also supports the development of therapeutics in preparation for early phase clinical trials for childhood cancer.
“When the traditional treatment protocol failed for my daughter Alex, clinical trials became our best and only option for combating her cancer,” said Jay Scott, Co-Executive Director of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. “While the outcome of the trials was not always certain, her participation allowed Alex several years of high quality of life, including her idea to hold a front yard lemonade stand. We know firsthand how important these trials are to bettering the lives of childhood cancer patients, and we are dedicated to bringing promising research from the lab to the clinic.”
For more information on recently funded projects, visit: www.ALSFgrants.org.