Israel Prize winner to talk about leading-edge medical discoveries

Israel Prize winner to talk about leading-edge medical discoveries

‘Inspirational’ event in Deal to benefit cancer research fund

Israeli cancer researcher Yosef Yarden said the deep understanding of tumors has triggered the development of a new wave of cancer drugs.
Israeli cancer researcher Yosef Yarden said the deep understanding of tumors has triggered the development of a new wave of cancer drugs.

Prof. Yosef Yarden, a recipient of the Israel Prize, the country’s highest honor, for his “significant and original contribution” to the fight against cancer — will be the highlighted speaker at the 10th annual “Evening of Inspiration,” a Deal fund-raiser benefiting the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF).

The event, to be held Sunday, July 23, in the home of Michelle and Jack Haddad, serves to further the ICRF’s mission of “supporting Israeli scientists in their efforts to find a cure and treatments for cancer,” said event cochair Lisa Oved of Deal.

Last year the fund awarded 72 grants totaling $3.8 million to Israeli researchers, facilitating cutting-edge research, she said. Since it was founded in 1974 by a group of philanthropists, scientists, lay leaders, and doctors from the United States and Canada, ICRF has disbursed almost $60 million in grants, Oved said, adding that a panel of doctors from throughout North America reviews all grant requests.

The funds raised by supporters goes a long way. “We get more value for our money because it costs less to do research in Israel than here,” said Oved, adding that providing the funding also “keeps great minds in Israel. It used to be that many of these scientists would leave Israel. This has been a way to keep them.”

ICRF-supported researchers have been instrumental in the development of life-saving drugs, including Doxil, which slows cancerous cell growth, and Gleevec, used in treating leukemia and other cancers. Other researchers have contributed to treatments for cancers of the prostate, lung, breast, ovaries, and brain.

Two ICRF grant recipients, Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko of the Israel Institute of Technology, were awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Irwin Rose of the University of California-Irvine for their discovery of “ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation,” the system that destroys proteins. When this degradation doesn’t happen at the proper time, an unchecked division of cells occurs, often resulting in cancer.

This discovery led to the development of Velcade, widely used to treat multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow, by targeting the ubiquitin system. 

Yarden, whose research has been underwritten by ICRF since 1988, is a member of the Weizmann Institute’s Department of Biological Regulation. He received the 2017 Israel Prize in Life Sciences in celebration of his crucial discoveries about the biochemistry of cancer. 

In an e-mail, Yarden told NJJN that the focus of his discussion at the event will be “the current wave of new cancer drugs and the deep understanding of tumors, which instigated the new wave.”

He said Israeli scientists have contributed significantly to this new wave. According to the ICRF, Yarden, himself an ICRF-funded researcher since 1988, “has paved the way for new treatment protocols that have entered into clinical practice and saved lives.” 

His work, focusing on the activity of hormone-like molecules called growth factors, has made a “significant and original contribution” to the understanding of cancer and new treatment protocols and has led to the development of several anti-cancer drugs. 

Yarden and his team at Weizmann recently discovered that the body’s molecular functions during the day may interfere with the effectiveness of certain cancer medication. Preliminary research with mice showed a slower rate of tumor growth when certain cancer drugs were administered at night rather than in the daytime.

Oved added that cancer survivor David Cohen will deliver an “inspirational” speech at the event.

The program will be held in memory of Frieda and Nathan Franco and Edward M. Dweck. The other chairs are Ariela Ben-Dayan, Harry Adjmi, Samantha Harary, and Charles Ben-Dayan.

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