Dr. Philip Lupo, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Cancer Center, was one of four U.S. researchers to be awarded an Epidemiology Grant from the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to support his research on the relation between childhood cancer and birth defects.
Specifically, according to information available on his biography page on Texas Children’s website, Dr. Lupo will examine the impact of genes and prenatal exposures on the development of childhood cancer, while identifying novel risk factors for long-term complications of childhood cancer therapies.
With his research, Dr. Lupo aims to discover factors that can be used in childhood cancer prevention efforts and targeted interventions, in order to limit the adverse side effects of childhood cancer treatment.
Every year, about 7.9 million babies all over the world are born with a congenital malformation, which is currently the leading cause of infant mortality in the U.S. and many other developed nations. And, although even a relatively minor congenital malformation can be one of the strongest risk factors for developing childhood cancer, Dr. Lupo explains, very little is known about why these conditions overlap.
With the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Epidemiology Grant, Lupo now expects to have an opportunity to build a multi-state resource for exploring the molecular underpinnings of these conditions. Ultimately, Lupo hopes to improve cancer screening and prevention efforts. Designed to support research focused on the causes of childhood cancer as well as early detection and prevention, the Epidemiology grant provides $200,000 over two years.
According to Lupo, identifying birth defect-childood cancer patterns and the underlying reason for these patterns is a challenging thing to do, since there are no large population-based with biological samples. There are, however, active surveillance programs and registries for both birth defects and childhood cancer across the nation’s states,
Lupo’s study will access the registries from Texas, North Carolina and Utah, three states that follow similar protocols in their registry system, and with the advantage that they capture diverse populations, including Hispanics, Caucasians and Afro – Americans.
The fact that these registries provide information on the entire population in a state will give the researchers an “unbiased look at previously unidentified patterns that exist between certain birth defects and childhood cancer, and an opportunity to recruit families for future studies to determine the role of genetics in these complex conditions,” Lupo said. For this project, he will collaborate with BCM cancer genetics researchers Sharon Plon and Will Parsons.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation was founded by the parents of Alexandra “Alex” Scott, a childhood cancer patient who started her own lemonade stand to raise money for research. This nonprofit organization aims to raise money and awareness of childhood cancer causes, primarily research into new treatments and cures. This is not the first time Baylor researchers receive a grant from this foundation: in February, Dr. William Decker and Dr. Cliona Rooney have received grants Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to advance their immunotherapy-based treatment approaches for childhood cancer from the bench to bedside.