Happy New Year! Thanks to your generosity on Giving Tuesday, an international day of giving back, we were able to fully fund a vital new Grant Writing Workshop for early career scientists, which will enhance the quality of proposals submitted, and help to ensure that no deserving cancer research project in Israel goes unfunded. In 2021, you also enabled us to support 78 new grants for 2021-22, for an overall total of 2,647 grants since ICRF's inception in 1975.
HPV Vaccine Protects Against Cervical Cancer

ICRF interviews Dr. Rachel A. Katzenellenbogen, Chief, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, on the importance of the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine.
Can you describe the relationship between cervical cancer and HPV?

There are well over 200 known types of HPVs, and it is a very common infection. A subset of them, called high-risk HPVs, are associated with cancers that can result from a long-term infection. There are more than a dozen high-risk HPVs, which cause nearly 100 percent of all cervical cancers.  In addition, HPV is associated with head and neck cancer and other cancers that can be inhibited by the vaccine.
Who is the HPV vaccine for and when should it be administered? How difficult is it to persuade parents, and is their permission essential?
The HPV vaccine is approved for all people between the ages of 9 to 45. The recommended age to receive the vaccine in the U.S. is 11 to 12 years old, but the vaccine series can be administered to patients as young as 9. The vaccine protects a person from HPV infection, so it is critical to get vaccinated before exposure. The vaccine does not treat HPV after infection. Since 75 percent of people have evidence of a current or prior infection with HPV, it is important to be vaccinated at a young age. We are all at risk, but infections can be prevented.
I think all parents want to protect their children from disease, especially cancer. This is a vaccine that can really wipe cervical cancers off the map, as well as other cancers that are increasingly common in men. Almost 5 percent of cancers worldwide are caused by HPV, so protecting against it can have a real impact on our children’s lives. The vaccine includes only one piece of HPV, not the whole virus, and it also does not contain any of the viral genes or proteins that cause cancer to occur. The vaccine is much safer than getting infected. I think this information is really helpful for parents to understand. 
Parents do need to give permission for their minor children to receive preventive vaccines in the U.S. 
This a vaccine that can really wipe cervical cancers off the map.

Dr. Rachel Katzenellenbogen
Cervical Cancer Statistics

Cervical cancer was once considered one of the most common causes of death for American women. The death rate has dropped significantly with the introduction of the HPV vaccine and also the increased use of the Pap test, which reveals changes in the cervix before cancer develops. The test can also detect early stage cervical cancer, when it is small and easier to cure.
  • Cervical cancer often presents a special challenge because symptoms are not always apparent, especially in the earliest stages. Therefore it is highly recommended to begin regular cervical cancer screenings at age 21.
  • The HPV vaccine is a vital tool for preventing cervical cancer since most cervical cancers are caused by the virus. The introduction of the HPV Gardasil® in 2006 has rendered the vast majority of cervical cancers preventable.
  • Cervical cancer is most frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44. About 20 percent of cervical cancers are diagnosed in women over 65.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2021, 14,480 cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed and that about 4,300 women died from the disease.
  • Treatments may include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Sources: American Cancer Society, World Health Organization
New Grant Recipient Efrat Shema Explores
Deadly Childhood Cancers

We will be highlighting several of our newly funded scientists in upcoming newsletters. This month we are proud to introduce Professor Efrat Shema of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The goal of Dr. Shema’s research is to identify new drug targets and improve future treatments for glioma (tumor that occurs in the brain or spinal cord) patients. To reach this goal, she recently developed a novel technological approach to study changes in histones (a special class of proteins) and related proteins that regulate gene expression. Her team will apply this technology to elucidate how alterations in one particular type of histone protein (histone H3) may drive development of pediatric gliomas and how recurrent mutations in another cellular protein (known as IDH protein) may contribute to the development of adult glioma.

ICRF Researcher Behind World's First 3D Tumor Model

Professor Ronit Satchi-Fainaro's research will improve the treatment and development of new drugs to combat glioblastoma, the deadliest type of brain cancer.
We have been reading all over the media that your lab has “printed” the first 3D living malignant brain tumor. Can you describe this incredible development?

Many drugs show promising results in laboratory research, but eventually fail in clinical trials because the success achieved in the laboratory cannot be recreated in real people. We hypothesize that one main reason for this translational gap is that current cancer models are inadequate. The reason is that cancer, like all tissues, behaves very differently on a plastic surface than it does in the human body. We understood that growing all types of cancer on identical plastic surfaces is not an optimal simulation of the clinical environment.

We have created the first 3D-bioprinted model of a perfusable (passage of blood to the tissue) and viable glioblastoma tumor, which includes 3D cancer tissue enveloped in extracellular matrix and fluid, and communicates with its environment via functioning blood vessels. The complex intratumoral heterogeneity and the tumor microenvironment are the major contributors of glioblastoma cell resistance to therapy. The brain tumor microenvironment is known to be a dynamic and complex population which plays a major role in tumor progression, involving various signaling pathways which impact glioblastoma cell growth and invasion. Therefore, models that better mimic the intricate microenvironment of glioblastoma have the potential to facilitate the development of effective alternative treatment options.

I’m ever so grateful to the ICRF for believing in me and giving my team and me the opportunity to follow our crazy, out-of-the-box ideas
and transform them into reality!

Professor Ronit Satchi-Fainaro
In Memoriam: Linnea Olson, a Cancer Warrior

-Tribute by Rob Densen, ICRF Past President and Board of Trustees Member

Linnea Olson – who was on the ICRF International Board and a founding member of our Women’s Advisory Committee – died November 15, having survived stage IV lung cancer for 16 years. She was 61.

My daughter Ari and I met Linnea on a tour of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center a month after my wife died. We like to say one angel left our family and another came into it.

But Linnea wasn’t one of those harp-playing angels flitting about on gossamer wings. She was an avenging angel on a Harley. She was a warrior – strong, fierce, clear-eyed, smart, determined, unafraid and not to be trifled with, qualities apparent even on this brief clip from our 2020 Virtual Gala.

She was an artist, a great friend, a highly effective patient advocate, a brilliant writer, and a consultant to multiple pharma companies. And when she passed, she was working on an initiative relative to patient rights in clinical trials. And she did all this while in a life and death struggle for 16 years with this dreadful disease.

Cancer research is not a zero sum, cure/no cure endeavor. Linnea was on her sixth clinical trial when she died. Without them, she would not have survived 16 months, let alone 16 years.

If you’d like to know more – and she was, for sure, a woman worth knowing – please take a look at her blog: Life and Breath: Outliving Lung Cancer (for the terminally optimistic) and watch the Brilliant Minds webinar in which she opened up about her cancer journey.
Chapter Events
Run With Team ICRF

ICRF has been selected to be an official Charity Partner of the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon on March 20, 2022.

Run with Team ICRF to raise funds for innovative cancer research in Israel and help others imagine a day where cancer no longer causes suffering for patients and their loved ones.

To learn more about a guaranteed fundraising entry, how you can help raise money for the team if you already have a confirmed entry, or how you can sponsor an ICRF runner, please visit our website or contact New York Executive Director Alan Herman at alan.herman@icrfonline.org.
News Roundup