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Utah physician wins funding for research of childhood cancers

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 3:08 p.m. MDT

Bailey Foster calls out to cars and passers-by trying to sell hot chocolate and lemonade. She is joined by her cousin Chole Vasko, left, and neighbor Sophia Finlinson. The Foster family hosted their first annual Alex's Lemonade Stand as part of the National Lemonade Days weekend, Saturday, June 12, 2010. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Bailey Foster calls out to cars and passers-by trying to sell hot chocolate and lemonade. She is joined by her cousin Chole Vasko, left, and neighbor Sophia Finlinson. The Foster family hosted their first annual Alex's Lemonade Stand as part of the National Lemonade Days weekend, Saturday, June 12, 2010. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah physician and researcher is one of five in the country who secured a grant to further study childhood cancer.

The money — $125,000 for three years — comes from Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding cures for kids with cancer. In all, the group is awarding nearly $1.9 million in new grants.

Dr. Kevin Jones, a pediatric oncologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, will continue his research targeting metabolism in alveolar soft part sarcoma genesis. Cancer cell metabolism is a growing field of study, according to the young scientist, and his work delves into the body's production and consumption of lactate as it pertains to tumor growth.

Alveolar soft part sarcoma is a deadly cancer that typically arises in the limbs of adolescents or young adults. It is deadly because it spreads to distant sites of the body and is then resistant to all available treatments.

Natalie Stoddard of Murray, left, enjoys a glass of free lemonade at Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money for and awareness of childhood cancer, at Toys R Us in Murray on Friday, June 24, 2011. Michael, 10, Ben, 6, and Tracy Silva of Syracuse man the stand. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Natalie Stoddard of Murray, left, enjoys a glass of free lemonade at Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money for and awareness of childhood cancer, at Toys R Us in Murray on Friday, June 24, 2011. Michael, 10, Ben, 6, and Tracy Silva of Syracuse man the stand. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

"The young victims of this disease need better treatment options," Jones said, adding that alveolar soft part sarcoma demonstrates signs of dependence on lactate metabolism.

Jones hopes to investigate the metabolism of the lactate molecules in terms of finding new treatments for cancer.

"If our hypothesis is correct, an entire new avenue of treatment options opens not only for this particular tumor, but for cancer more generally," he said.

Others receiving grants include physicians and researchers in Georgia, New York, Missouri and Maryland. Their work will look further into brain tumors, leukemia, neuroblastoma and lymphoma.

Along with funds provided to the award recipients, each will have the opportunity to speak and attend foundation events, have access to reference books and equipment to aid in their research, as well as funding to attend educational courses or events.

A Utah researcher is one of five in the country who secured a grant to further study childhood cancer. (Jordan Allred, Deseret News) A Utah researcher is one of five in the country who secured a grant to further study childhood cancer. (Jordan Allred, Deseret News)

"Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation has always had a mission of supporting the very best research available, contributing to our ultimate goal of finding a cure for all kids with cancer," said Jay Scott, co-director of the foundation.

The funding awards bring "the fresh perspectives of young scientists to the forefront of the field and keep them there," Scott said.

In the United States, childhood cancer is the leading cause of death in children under age 15, according to the foundation. Every day, approximately 250 kids around the world die from cancer, meaning 91,250 lose their lives to the class of more than a dozen types and subtypes of the disease every year.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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