Iowa cancer researcher denied federal funds, but gets grant instead

$100,000 in springboard funding will aid in research of neuroendocrine tumors in children

A pediatric cancer specialist with the University of Iowa is among five researchers across the country chosen to receive a $100,000 springboard grant to jumpstart a promising investigation.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit fundraiser for cancer research, announced this week the grants created in response to government cuts in research funding available through the National Institutes of Health.

All five of the chosen projects – identified as having “high impact potential for childhood cancer research” – will receive $100,000 over the course of a year to help get them off the ground. Sue O’Dorisio, with the UI Hospitals and Clinics pediatric hematology and oncology department, was chosen for her proposal to research neuroendocrine tumors, according to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Those tumors “constitute an unrecognized health threat to children and young adults,” according to the foundation. Their incidence and prevalence compares with that of neuroblastoma, but there is little research on them and no effective treatment for children with the metastatic disease.

More than half of those diagnosed die within five years, according to the foundation, as the tumors don’t respond to conventional chemotherapy or radiation therapy. O’Dorisio has proposed the study of theranostics in children and young adults in hopes of finding a way to determine whether a child’s tumor will be susceptible or resistant to the administration of drugs.

O’Dorisio’s work could lead to the development of new therapeutic options for children and young adults with neuroendorine tumors.

The $100,000 one-year grants also were awarded to researchers at the University of California-San Diego, the University of California-Los Angeles, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and the University of Rochester.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation introduced the springboard grants in 2012 to advance cancer research projects that had applied for and been denied NIH funding within the last six months. To be considered for a foundation grant, applicants must score within the NIH’s top 20 percent.

Government spending cuts, including this year’s sequester, have limited the NIH budget and reduced its number of grants available for research.

The fundraising foundation was created to honor cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott, who decided at age 4 that she wanted to raise money through a lemonade stand to help find a cure for childhood cancer. Alex died four years later in 2004, and her foundation has grown, raising more than $60 million and funding more than 300 pediatric cancer research projects.

The foundation also introduced bridge grants in 2012 to help researchers working on projects that are in jeopardy due to NIH budget cuts. Those grants also provide $100,000 over a year to keep projects going while researchers reapply for funding.

“With less than 5 percent of the federal government’s total funding for cancer research each year being dedicated to childhood cancers, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is constantly looking for ways to keep promising research alive,” Jay Scott, co-executive director of the foundation said in a news release.

The foundation now is accepting applications for a second 2013 cycle of springboard and bridge grants. For more information, visit

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