ICRF Newsletter
October 2020

ICRF supports several Israeli scientists conducting studies in breast cancer. This month the spotlight turns to Professor Neta Erez, Head of the Laboratory of Tumor Biology and Chair of the Department of Pathology at Tel Aviv University, who is studying the early stages of tumor metastasis, with a focus on the metastatic microenvironment. Funded by ICRF since 2011, Professor Erez and her team are studying cancer-related inflammation and the role of stromal (connective tissue cells) and immune cells in supporting the metastasis of breast cancer tumor cells to the lungs. Cancer mortality is almost exclusively a result of metastasis. Yet, very little is known about the role of the metastic environment in allowing the primary tumor to propagate and colonize the metastic organ.

Professor Erez’s goal is to further understand how cells in the tissue in which a microenvironment of tumors facilitate the growth of metastic tumor cells. Currently, most anti-cancer therapy is applied following the operative resection of the tumor in order to prevent relapse. She hopes to discover molecular pathways that could lead to the development of novel therapies to efficiently inhibit breast cancer metastases.

Breast Cancer Facts and Figures

•Breast cancer is the second most deadly cancer in the U.S. and Israel. Ashkenazi Jews are ten times more likely to have a BRCA gene mutation.

• In 2020, it is estimated that among women in the U.S. there will be more than 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer, 48,530 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (a non- invasive breast cancer), and 42,170 breast cancer deaths. According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, in 2020 there will be 131.6 new cases of breast cancer per 100,000 women and 19.9 deaths per 100,000 women.

• The Israel Cancer Association reports that breast cancer comprises about one third of all new cancer cases each year in women. It is the most prevalent malignant disease in women of all population groups in Israel and constitutes about one-fifth of all cancer mortality in women. In 2017 (the most recent data available from the National Cancer Registry), 5,279 new patients were diagnosed in Israel; 4,689 were diagnosed with an invasive tumor and 630 in situ. In 2017, 1,078 women died of invasive breast cancer in Israel. The majority of morbidity—both with invasive breast cancer and in situ—is in women 50 and older.

• The World Health Organization ranks Israel 26 worldwide in the number of new patients per year, and 64 in mortality rates, evidence of a decrease in mortality rates due to the upward trend in early detection and up-to-date treatments.

• About one-third of all breast cancer cases, according to the Israel Cancer Association, are preventable by adopting healthy habits such as maintaining optimum weight, exercising, refraining from smoking and alcohol consumption. Simultaneously, breast exams, according to age-based guidelines and genetic history, are also of paramount importance in mitigating the disease.
Dr. Peter Stambrook

ICRF mourns the recent death of Dr. Peter Stambrook, a key organizer and leader of the Scientific Review Panel and past Chair of the International Scientific Council. Respected and beloved by all who knew him, Dr. Stambrook was deeply involved in the process of selecting grant recipients and advising declined applicants on how to improve their applications for a future submission.

Born in 1941 in London to parents who fled Vienna in 1939, Stambrook immigrated to the U.S. in 1953 and settled in Ithaca, New York. He received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and a master’s degree in zoology from Syracuse University. Following his doctorate, he completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Cell Biology at the University of Kentucky Medical Center

It was in Cincinnati where his most important scientific contributions in the area of DNA repair occurred. As a distinguished professor at the University of Cincinnati (UC), he led a department and served as the Francis Brunning Chair of Cell and Cancer Biology for 12 years before returning full time to his lab.

He was known for his commitment to furthering the careers of young faculty members and nurturing interdisciplinary interaction across departments at UC which led to multi-investigator training and shared research.

Aside from his passion for science, Stambrook was a black belt in judo, and loved soccer and tennis. He leaves behind his wife, Mary Piper, his daughter, Elizabeth Stambrook, a research nurse, and his granddaughter, Piper Moore.

Dr. Mark Israel, ICRF’s National Executive Director, hailed Stambrook as “the helmsman who held our scientific programs on a steady course. His sense of fairness, integrity, kindness, consummate professionalism, and relentless focus on our mission were a north star for this organization and will continue to guide us in all our endeavors.”

Click here for the University of Cincinnati's tribute to Dr. Stambrook.
This month's Brilliant Minds webinar dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness Month looked at the emerging science behind the role that the brain and emotions play in mediating anti-tumor immunity.

Survivor Johanna (JoJo) Harris shared the story of how she confronted and conquered breast cancer after her diagnosis at age 42. Now in her sixth year of remission, the mother of four found strength in the power of practicing positive thinking.
Technion neuroscientist Asya Rolls, PhD,
an ICRF-Cancer Research Institute Immunotherapy Promise Grantee, shed light on the science behind the mind-body connection and how her lab's research on anti-tumor immunity may help unlock a completely new approach to treating breast and other cancers. Her lab is also applying this research to investigate whether pandemic-related stress reduces cancer patients' ability to fight COVID-19.
Learn more about the fascinating research being pioneered by Professor Rolls in Scientific American and JTA.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
12 pm ET / 11 am CT

With a five-year survival rate in the single digits, pancreatic cancer is one of the world’s deadliest cancers. Please join us next month ahead of World Pancreatic Cancer Day (November 19) for an interactive conversation featuring ICRF-funded researcher Oren Parnas, PhD of The Hebrew University and ICRF Trustee and Chairman Emeritus Kenneth Goodman, who lost his wife, Barbara S. Goodman, to pancreatic cancer. Mark Israel, MD and Nancy Maizels, PhD will moderate.

Professor Parnas, a principal investigator at Hebrew University's Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research, is the recipient of an ICRF Research Career Development Award investigating the interactions between the immune system and cancer, with the goal of finding new ways to engineer immune cells to fight pancreatic cancer. Using advanced genetics and genomics methods, his lab has discovered several genes that induce the immune system to restrict tumor growth and now aims to find the best combination of genes to target.
Additional details and registration will be available shortly on our website.
Webinar sponsorship opportunities are still available for 2020. To learn more,
A partnership between ICRF and City of Hope, generously supported by
The Harvey L. Miller Family Foundation

The Jacki and Bruce Barron Cancer Research Scholars' Program has been established to foster outstanding collaborative research and promote the exchange of ideas between exceptional researchers in the United States and Israel. 

The overarching goal of this program is to advance our understanding of cancer and develop life-saving therapies, novel diagnostic approaches and/or prevention strategies by leveraging the knowledge and expertise of scientists in the two countries. 

The proposed research should ideally be a collaboration between basic and clinical scientists with the intent of enhancing the transfer of basic research findings into clinical usefulness. 

For more information and to apply, click here.
Jason Alexander

Jason Alexander joined the ICRF Women’s Advisory Committee (WAC) for a special Zoom call to mark the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Alexander, the host of ICRF’s first-ever nationwide Ribbons of Hope virtual gala in August, generously auctioned off the private call in support of the event, which ultimately raised over $1.4 million for groundbreaking cancer research.

The Committee, which brings together a diverse cadre of women business leaders and philanthropists, formed in early 2020 and was instrumental in the online event's success. WAC members spearheaded a new fund focused on women’s cancers in honor of the Alexander family. The fund has already raised over $23,000.

The group also seeded the concept behind the special monthly ICRF Presents: Brilliant Minds webinar series and has continued to evolve the series to spotlight survivor perspectives and stories of hope, including that of member Linnea Olson.

Jason, whose wife Daena E. Title is a breast cancer survivor, underscored the critical importance of investing in research as he reflected on her battle with the disease: “We are very fortunate to live in a world where many cancers – including breast cancer – are not a death sentence.”  

The future of drug development will be driven by an intersection of computer science, mathematics,
engineering and nanoscience. Key to such innovation is bio-convergence, technology inspired by naturally occurring processes. Israel is planning to invest $30 million dollars in bio-convergence, according to a recent article in Israel 21c.

ICRF-funded scientist Professor Ronit Satchi-Fainaro heads a 30-person nano medicine cancer research laboratory in the department of physiology and pharmacology at Tel Aviv University. Her lab includes research associates in biology, chemistry, medical engineering, and bioinformatics. Recently, the lab developed a method for 3D printing of cancerous brain tumors using MRI on images. After producing 20 mini-tumors, they connected them to a set of tubes and pumps that delivered simulated blood, chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, enabling physicians to test drugs on a perfect replica of the actual tumor.

Professor Satchi-Fainaro is also working on an immune-modulated response for Covid-19 and an immunotherapy nano-vaccine for melanoma.

Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) Toronto Board President Bonnie Fish and ICRF Toronto Executive Director Jennifer Ouaknine are thrilled to announce a record Major Gift to ICRF Toronto of US $1 Million to create the Beverley Librach Abshez Fund for Ovarian and Female Reproductive Cancer Research.

This is the largest single gift raised by ICRF Toronto.

ICRF Toronto is honored to be the recipient of this generous gift in memory of Beverley Librach Abshez who died of ovarian cancer. The anonymous donors believe that focused research by Israeli cancer scientists in this area will take the world closer to a cure.

"This extraordinary gift will make a real difference in the fight against female reproductive cancers. Israeli scientists are making great strides in cancer research every day and funding like this is critical to ensuring their efforts continue. Even in these unprecedented times, our donors continue to provide hope," commented Bryna Goldberg, ICRF International Chair.
Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) Chicago has announced the appointment of Charles “Chip” Serlin to the position of Chicago Board Chair. The Highland Park resident has been a member of the ICRF board for the past 18 months.

“It is an honor to assume the role of Chairman of Chicago ICRF and to be associated with such an important organization,” noted Serlin. “Like many of you, I have been affected by cancer and I wanted to put my efforts toward helping to solve the cancer problem. While I don’t have medical or scientific training, I am confident I can play a meaningful role by raising money to support those who can make a difference. ICRF offers me the opportunity to contribute to the fight against cancer.”

Serlin has more than 18 years of experience in the consumer auto sales, auto finance and auto insurance business. Prior to that, he worked as a certified public accountant for Altshuler Melvoin and Glasser (1995-2002) and Coopers and Lybrand (1990-1994).

In accepting this new challenge, Serlin remarked: “I deeply believe that ICRF is supporting the most promising scientists in Israel and that its efforts will lead to many breakthroughs in the race to eradicate cancer.”
Dubi Fishel

In September, ICRF Chicago lost a dear friend and board member, Dubi Fishel, who bravely waged a battle against metastatic pancreatic cancer for over three years. Dubi was raised in Israel and served in the military. Dubi and his wife Francine lived on Kibbutz Urim in the Western Negev, raising their three children, Daphna, Gilead, and Carin. Dubi was a leader in agriculture development and textile manufacturing.

The family moved to the United States in 1984, making their home in Northbrook, Illinois. For over 25 years, Dubi worked as an operations executive in several manufacturing industries and then ran his own consulting business. Dubi was also a dedicated volunteer for the Village of Northbrook, as a producer and director of NBK-TV and devoted time to Keshet, an organization supporting individuals with disabilities.

His positive attitude and fierce determination were an inspiration to all who had the privilege of knowing him. He was tireless in his commitment to raise awareness and donations for ICRF. To honor his memory, the Dubi Fishel Fund for Pancreatic Cancer Research has been established.

To donate to the Dubi Fishel fund, please click here.

Montreal ICRF is launching its 15th Annual Women of Action luncheon to be held virtually on Sunday, November 22, 2020 at noon.

The complimentary live stream event will honor two women leaders in business and science: Dr. Galia Rahav, MD, PhD, Head of Infectious Disease, Sheba Medical Center, and a leader in Israel’s COVID 19 research, and Clarissa Desjardins, PhD, serial entrepreneur and former Founder and CEO of Clementia Pharmaceuticals. Honorary Chairwomen are Anne-Marie Boucher, lawyer and philanthropist, and Debra Margles, President, Michael Kors Canada.

To register, please click here.
The Connecticut chapter recorded a ‘model’ Tumor Board in October for presentation to our donors. A Tumor Board is a group of medical specialists from a variety of disciplines who meet to discuss individual cases to determine the best treatment option for each person. A tumor board may consist of medical oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, pathologists, a geneticist and other specialties depending on case type reviewed. Typically, major hospitals and cancer centers hold frequent Tumor Boards often organized by specific cancer types. The most common boards are for breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancers.

In this model Tumor Board, ICRF National Executive Director Dr. Mark Israel gave an overview before insights were provided by three breast cancer specialists:

Dr. Richard Zelkowitz, Regional Medical Director, Breast Program, Hematology/Oncology, St. Vincent Medical Center, Hartford Healthcare
Dr. Steven Cohen, Diagnostic Radiologist specializing in women’s imaging, partner in Advanced Radiology
Dr. Helen Pass, Co-Director, Breast Center, Chief of Breast Surgery at Stamford Health and Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery, Columbia University

The emphasis was on dispelling misunderstandings regarding breast cancer treatment options and emphasizing the value of early screening, particularly in times when many hesitate due to Covid-19 concerns. Click here for a five-minute preview of the full breast cancer Tumor Board video which is available on our website.
Celebrate your birthday or honor a loved one by creating your own Facebook fundraiser for ICRF.

Use the new Amazon Smile App
(for both iOS and android)
to generate donations for ICRF
when you shop via Amazon Smile.
The Answer to Cancer is Research.

Israel Cancer Research Fund's mission is to support the best and brightest scientists conducting groundbreaking cancer research at all of the leading institutions in Israel. To date, ICRF has competitively-awarded over $72 million in funding for nearly 2,500 grants, making ICRF the largest nongovernmental funder of cancer research in Israel. Learn more at www.icrfonline.org.