Alex’s Lemonade Stand funds childhood cancer research at UF

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer awards pediatric brain tumor specialist $125,000 grant

Dr. Amy Smith, (right) an assistant professor of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine and director of neuro-oncology at Shands Children’s Hospital, presents Erin Monteiro, grassroots and volunteer programs coordinator for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, with a framed stethoscope as a thank you for the foundation’s support. Photo by Maria Belen Farias

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer has awarded $5 million in childhood cancer research grants in 2010, including one to a UF pediatric brain tumor specialist.

Dr. Amy Smith, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the College of Medicine and director of the UF Pediatric Brain Tumor Program, received a $125,000 infrastructure grant last week to help fund an innovative therapy program that will provide treatment options for young patients with rare forms of cancer or whose families have exhausted all traditional treatment options.

This year, the foundation awarded 34 medical grants to 26 institutions in 17 states, and Smith could receive as much as $375,000 over the next four years.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation was started in 2000 by Alexandra “Alex” Scott when she was 4 years old. Alex, who was diagnosed with childhood cancer just before her first birthday, told her parents she wanted to set up a front-yard lemonade stand and donate the money to doctors to help them find a cure. Her first lemonade stand raised $2,000 in one day. Since 2000, Alex’s foundation has raised more than $30 million to support research, patient support and education for childhood cancers.

The UF Pediatric Brain Tumor Program at Shands Children’s Hospital at UF brings together the expertise to provide comprehensive care for young patients in an environment that recognizes their unique needs as children. With support from ALSF, Smith and her team will develop early-phase clinical trials in collaboration with the Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Investigators Consortium, also known as POETIC.

POETIC is a select group of institutions through the United States and Canada that participate in trials using brand-new drugs. These trials must be monitored closely, but offer treatments that otherwise would not be available to children.

(From left) Dr. Paul Okunieff, director of the UF Shands Cancer Center and chairman of the College of Medicine’s department of radiation oncology; Erin Monteiro, Dr. Michael L. Good, dean of the UF College of Medicine; Dr. Amy Smith, Dr. David S. Guzick, senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System, and Dr. William Slayton, interim chief of pediatric hematology/oncology. Photo by Maria Belen Farias

“At the UF College of Medicine, physicians and scientists like Dr. Amy Smith are deeply committed to the constant evolution of pediatric cancer care while searching endlessly for cures,” said Dr. Michael L. Good, dean of the College of Medicine. “The faster we can propel her efforts forward, the greater the chance that a breakthrough will occur.”

Smith added that by developing new research studies and enrolling patients in clinical trials, hope is given to families who have tried every other available treatment.

“We are extremely grateful to ALSF for their investment in UF and their commitment to getting rid of childhood cancer,” she said.