Hematologist winse $375,000 for AML research

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation supports Dr. Roland Walter's study of cancer cells that fuel acute myeloid leukemia and work to improve therapeutic response and prognosis
Dr. Roland Walter, Clinical Research Division Photo by Bo Jungmayer

Dr. Roland Walter, a hematologist in the Hutchinson Center's Clinical Research Division, is one of four recipients nationwide of Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation's "A" Award. The $375,000 grant from the childhood cancer nonprofit will support Walter's study of acute myeloid leukemia, a blood cancer from which most patients eventually die despite aggressive therapy.

In the lay summary of his project, "Prognostic and Therapeutic Significance of Stem Cell Heterogeneity in AML," Walter wrote that because it is thought that only a minute population of cancer cells (leukemia stem cells, or LSCs) cause and maintain AML, there is a need to understand these cells in order to develop treatments that will destroy them. The Walter Lab developed a novel system to grow and study cells from AML patients, including LSCs. They plan to use this method to study a large number of patient specimens to improve understanding of the link between LSCs and 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," said Walter, who also hopes to 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," he said.

ALSF created its "A" Award in 2009 to jumpstart the careers of promising pediatric oncologists who are integral components in the development of new treatments and cures. 

In addition to research funds, the award provides:

  • Access to ALSF's scientific advisory board for periodic consultation
  • A choice of reference books to enhance the researcher's personal pediatric oncology library
  • The choice of equipment to aid in their research (up to $10,000 value)
  • Funding to attend one medical conference of his or her choice
  • The opportunity to meet other "A" Award recipients to collaborate and share ideas.

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation emerged from the front yard lemonade stand of 4-year-old Alexandra "Alex" Scott. In 2000, after receiving a stem cell transplant for neuroblastoma, she wanted to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer. Alex's first stand generated $2,000. Before she died at age 8, Alex's annual lemonade stands had raised more than $1 million. To date, the nonprofit has raised more than $60 million and funded more than 250 research projects nationally, including those examining leukemia, brain tumors, neuroblastoma, Wilm's tumor, lymphoma and osteosarcoma, among others.

Visit the ALSF website for more information on the foundation's grant programs.

[Based on a news release from Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation]

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