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Grant funds developmental therapeutics program at BCM

A five-year, $1.75 million grant from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation was awarded to Texas Children’s Cancer Center to establish the Developmental Therapeutics Center of Excellence. This award will further enhance the strong developmental therapeutics program at the Texas Children’s Cancer Center with the goal of developing and conducting more clinical trials to improve treatment and find cures for childhood cancer.

Additional Centers of Excellence grants were awarded by the foundation to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the University of California-San Francisco.

"The foundation’s Centers of Excellence award will be transformational," said Dr. Stacey Berg, professor of pediatrics-hematology/oncology at BCM and director of the new center. "The award will aid immeasurably in increasing the number and quality of phase 1 and 2 studies available for children with refractory (unresponsive) cancer now, but equally importantly, it will help children in the future by training the next generation of leaders in developmental therapeutics."

Developmental therapeutics is a broad area of study that includes basic research aimed at finding potential new targets for anticancer agents, preclinical testing of new drugs or cell and immune therapies for cancer treatment, and clinical trials to test new agents in people.

Half of the grant each year will fund the infrastructure necessary to establish the center, including personnel, while the other half will provide training for young physician scholars.

"The grant will permit investigators to devote their time to an individualized training program where they can learn the large number of skills they will need to become future leaders in the development of new treatments," Berg said, who is also director of clinical research at Texas Children's Cancer Center.

"The Centers of Excellence grant from Alex’s Lemonade Stand is one that will have an impact many years down the road," said Dr. David Poplack, professor of pediatric oncology at BCM and director of Texas Children’s Cancer Center. "It will provide opportunities for the outstanding investigators at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Cancer Center who are conducting important research into finding better treatments for children with cancer."

Alex’s Lemonade Stand was founded by Liz and Jay Scott, whose daughter Alexandra sought to raise money to find cures for cancer through her own lemonade stand during her battle with cancer. The foundation has raised more than $60 million for childhood cancer research.

The Centers for Excellence program was developed by the foundation to facilitate the evolution of new therapeutic concepts from the pre-clinical arena into fully developed clinical trials, to rapidly and efficiently conduct phase 1 and 2 trials of innovative therapies, and to train individuals in the field of developmental therapeutics and cancer pharmacology.

"Since inception with our daughter’s front yard lemonade stand, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation has always been dedicated to moving childhood cancer research forward," said Jay Scott, co-executive director of the foundation. "Whether it was through motivating promising young researchers to join the field of oncology or filing the gaps where funding was missing, the foundation has continued to evolve and will now work toward backing the next generation of leaders in the pediatric cancer field."

Texas Children’s Cancer Center is a joint program of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital and is the pediatric program of BCM’s NCI-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center.