Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a nonprofit organization, has awarded the Bio-therapeutics Impact Award to three individuals, including Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Cancer Center researcher, Dr. Leonid Metelitsa.
Dr. Metelitsa, who is also a fellow of the pediatric cancer program of the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at Baylor, has received a total of $1.5 million, which will fund a 3 year research on a novel cancer immunotherapy for the treatment of neuroblastoma, the most usual extracranial solid cancer during childhood.
This type of tumor is classified as neuroendocrine and derives from neural crest elements of the sympathetic nervous system. Usually it originates in one of the adrenal glands, but it can also arise in nerve tissues from the neck, chest, abdomen or pelvis.
This grant will help Dr. Metelitsa and his team engineer and clinically test natural killer T cells (NKT) that have the capacity to specifically target and destroy cancer cells in patients suffering from neuroblastoma.
The research will include a Phase 1 clinical study of these anti-tumor NKT cells in patients who have resistant or recurrent neuroblastoma, with predicted survival rates lower than 40%.
“The results of this study will inform clinical development of NKT-cell based immunotherapy of neuroblastoma and have a broad applicability for other types of cancer,” Dr. Metelitsa said in a news release.
The novel Bio-therapeutics Impact Grants aims to fund projects that can lead to important state-of-the-art research, especially immunotherapeutic research.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation originated from Alexandra Scott’s parents, a girl who suffered from childhood cancer and who put together a small lemonade stand sale to raise funds for oncologic pediatric patients. So far, the organization has managed to raise over $80 million in research funding.
Along with Dr. Metelitsa, Dr. Marie Bleakley of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Dr. Theodore Johnson of the Georgia Health Sciences University Research Institute were also awarded with this grant, which is the biggest funding delivered by the foundation.