UC Davis stem cell scientist Paul Knoepfler has been awarded a second $250,000 grant for glioma research from an organization begun 15 years ago by a 5-year-old girl with a deadly form of childhood cancer.
The two-year grant from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) begins Oct. 1. It will allow Knoepfler to continue his research on a family of pediatric gliomas with certain genetic mutations that that are especially lethal.
“In the first grant we received from ALSF we made significant progress by successfully making innovative, transformative tools to gain new insights into how specific mutations in glioma lead to formation of the tumors in the first place,” said Knoepfler, associate professor of cell biology and human anatomy, and scientific member of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We are very excited that our studies have already pointed to potential novel drug targets.”
Moving forward, Knoepfler said the research team will use a novel combination of cutting-edge stem cell, genetic and genomic technologies to further define and rigorously test new drug targets in these cancers.
“We are really honored to receive this second grant from ALSF, and we are passionate about making a difference in the lives of these amazing kids,” he said.
Knoepfler explained that pediatric gliomas are different than those that occur in adults, but their treatment is largely based on adult glioma therapies, which he says needs to change.
“The overall goal of this project is to take big steps toward new treatments for these high-grade gliomas, which are almost 100 percent fatal even with the best care offered today,” he said. “The best often consists of very severe treatments including radiation, chemotherapy and, in some cases, surgery, which all can have major side effects. That just isn’t good enough, so we need to transform that reality into one where most children with these brain tumors survive and go on to lead a normal, long life after treatment.”
In addition to the research grant, ALSF also has a new fundraising effort to provide even more support for research through the Alex’s Million Mile program. Through that program our UCD Cancer Team Zest can get up to $50,000 in additional research funding, as ALSF will match dollar-for-dollar all raised funds up to $25,000. All the money will go to childhood cancer research under way in Knoepfler’s lab.
The ALSF was established by Alexandra Scott of Manchester, Conn. Diagnosed at age 2 with neuroblastoma, she was later determined to help other children with cancer and started a lemonade stand to raise money. Alex passed away at age 8, but her effort continued to grow and has since raised more than $100 million for pediatric cancer research through the Foundation bearing her name, funding more than 500 research projects nationally. For more information on Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, visit AlexsLemonade.org.