Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to finding cures for all kids with cancer, has named Roland Walter, M.D., Ph.D., of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle as one of four recipients of the Foundation’s prestigious ‘A’ Award. The grant, designed to jumpstart the careers of promising scientists in the pediatric cancer field, will provide Walter with $375,000 for his leukemia research.
The ‘A’ Award, created in 2009, seeks to find the best and brightest young researchers and encourage them to build lifelong careers in the pediatric cancer field. The Foundation believes that young researchers are integral components of finding new treatments and cures, and by providing support for their research these investigators will utilize their talents toward pediatric oncology.
Dr. Walter will examine acute myeloid leukemia(AML), an aggressive blood cancer. It is the belief of his team that only a minute population of cancer cells cause and maintain the leukemia in AML patients, and that there is a need to understand these cells in order to develop novel treatments to destroy them. Walter and his team have developed a system to grow and study cells from AML patients, and they plan to use this method to study a large number of patient specimens to improve understanding of how these cells are connected to therapeutic response and prognosis.
“Since inception Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation has been dedicated to finding cures for all kids with cancer,” said Jay Scott, Co-Executive Director of the Foundation. “Through promising projects like Dr. Walter’s, we know that we are on the right course to not only finding those cures, but bettering the lives of children facing cancer both now and in the long term.”
‘A’ Award recipients will also have access to ALSF’s Scientific Advisory Board for periodic consultation and a choice of reference books to enhance the researcher’s personal pediatric oncology library. The Foundation will also give recipients the choice of equipment to aid in their research (up to $10,000 value), funding to attend one medical conference of their choice and the opportunity to meet other ‘A’ Award recipients to collaborate and share ideas.
In addition to Dr. Walter’s project, three other ‘A’ Awards were given to researchers across the country. The recipients were Christopher Vakoc, M.D.,Ph.D. of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Myron Ignatius, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital; and Grant Challen, Ph.D., of Washington University.
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.
For more information on the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation grant programs, visit
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation 2012 ‘A’ Award
Recipient Lay Summary
Dr. Roland Walter, M.D.,Ph.D., Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA
Prognostic and Therapeutic Significance of Stem Cell Heterogeneity in AML
AML is a blood cancer from which most patients will eventually die despite aggressive therapy. It is thought that only a minute population of cancer cells (‘leukemia stem cells’ or LSCs) causes/maintains the leukemia. Thus, there is great interest in understanding LSCs to develop novel treatments that specifically destroy these cells. LSCs may be diverse across patients: in some, they may resemble a normal blood stem cell whereas in others, they may look like a maturing white blood cell. We believe that this diversity is important for response to treatment and likelihood of cure but LSCs are poorly characterized so far because they could not be grown in the laboratory. We have now developed a novel system to grow and study cells from AML patients, including LSCs. We plan to use this method to study a large number of patient specimens to better understand LSCs and how genetic changes accumulate in them. These studies are aimed at improving our understanding of how LSCs are connected to therapeutic response and prognosis. By doing so, our studies may provide the rationale for a conceptually novel classification of human AML that improves our accuracy of predicting outcome of therapy. They may also discover novel targets for stem cell-directed therapies and identify appropriate subsets of patients in whom such therapies should be tested and utilized. Together, our studies may improve and individualize our efforts to eliminate stem cells in human AML and, ultimately, lead to a better chance of cure for patients with AML.
About Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation:
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) emerged from the front yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004). At the age of 4, Alex announced that she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer. Since Alex held that first stand, the Foundation bearing her name has evolved into a national fundraising movement, complete with thousands of volunteers across the country carrying on her legacy of hope. To date, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 charity, has raised more than $60 million toward fulfilling Alex’s dream of finding a cure, funding over 250 research projects nationally including those examining leukemia, brain tumors, neuroblastoma, Wilm’s tumor, lymphoma, and osteosarcoma among others.