ICRF Announces 74 Grants Awarded for 2021-2022

ICRF is pleased to announce a total of 74 cancer research grants valued at $4,616,334 will be supported for the 2021-2022 funding year. The new grants include: two grants for the Beverley Librach Abshez Initiative for Ovarian and Female Reproductive System Cancers, and three grants for the Len & Susan Mark Initiative for Ovarian and Uterine/MMMT Cancers, as well an additional Career Development Award (CDA) for a young clinician-scientist, co-funded with Conquer Cancer (The ASCO Foundation). Additionally, two new Research Career Development Awards (RCDAs) and one new Project Grant are being sponsored thanks to a generous bequest from the Estate of Jerry Gross, a long-time ICRF supporter. With the 2021-2022 grants, ICRF’s funding has now reached 2,643 grants totaling $82,368,334.

ICRF's volunteer Scientific Review Panel (SRP), composed of leading American and Canadian scientists with expertise in cancer research, reviews all grant applications on a transparent and objective basis. After this lengthy peer-review process, the SRP presents its rankings to the International Scientific Council (ISC), ICRF’s scientific policy-making arm. In turn, the ISC forwards its recommendations to the International Board of Trustees for ratification, and only the best, most-qualified applications receive ICRF funding.

Grant selection is based on the scientific merit of the proposed research and the quality of the application, rather than affiliation with any particular institution or religious affiliation. In fact, over the years, ICRF has funded projects at virtually all of the leading research centers in Israel, and has become the largest non-governmental funder of cancer research in Israel. Among the areas of cancer research sponsored by ICRF in 2021/2022 are studies in blood, brain, breast, colorectal, kidney, lung, oral, ovarian, pancreatic, pediatric, and skin cancers; drug development; cancer stem cells and cellular reprogramming; imaging and early detection; expression, regulation, and mutation of genes, and DNA repair; tumor metastasis; inflammation and cancer; obesity and cancer; cannabinoids and cancer; immunology and immunotherapy; proteomics and computational biology; cell signaling and cell-cycle control.

Commenting on the new grants, ICRF Board President David Abramson said, “Despite facing unusual challenges this year, ICRF will proudly support 74 grants to Israel's brilliant scientists who are dedicated to finding new treatments and cures for a broad scope of cancers. We are resolute in our mission to alleviate the suffering cancer causes by tapping into the innovation and resourcefulness of our ICRF-funded scientists.”
ICRF Update From National Executive Director, Beryl Chernov

Dear Friends,
We have cause to celebrate! Our Virtual Gala was met with amazing success, exceeding our record-breaking goal of $1.5 million dollars! It was a nail biter until the end, rolling into the credits $3,000 short of our goal. And then it happened… The ticker picked up in the final minutes and showed a new total of $25,000 over our goal. With donations still coming in, and with a little luck we will reach $1.6 million.

We could not have pulled this off without the help of so many people. Our host and honoree, Richard Kind, our amazing Chapter Honorees Bill Meyers, Cindy Pogrund, Cynthia Perl, and Marjorie Cohen z”l, our featured ICRF-funded researcher, Dr. Jacob Hanna of the Weizmann Institute, our inspirational guest speaker and cancer survivor, Joseph Shamie, and our star-studded lineup of special guests, including Michael J. Fox, Jason Alexander, Paul Rudd, Hank Azaria, Susie Essman, Jeff Garlin, Gilbert Gottfried, Steven Weber and Ayla Schwartz from Broadway's production of Disney's Frozen. Ultimately, our greatest thanks go to YOU… our friends and supporters who join hands together in our shared mission to make this all possible. A very special thanks to our 2021 sponsors, listed here.

In other exciting news, I’m happy to share that Alan Herman [more below] has joined the New York team as Executive Director. We welcome him with great enthusiasm.

As we mark Rosh Hashana 5782 next week, we are so grateful to our wonderful donors. Your magnanimous contributions will soon be in the hands of Israel’s best and brightest minds. For those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to join in our fight against cancer, it’s not too late! You can still contribute as well as view and share the full recording of the gala with your family and friends on our website.

On behalf of the ICRF board, and staff, I wish you Shana Tova, and a healthy year ahead.
Researcher Shares Significant Findings on Breast Cancer Metastasis
Neta Erez, PhD, of the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, is the recipient of several ICRF grants.  We spoke to her about her research in tumor metastasis.

Your most recent research was published in eLife, can you briefly describe your findings?

Mortality from breast cancer is almost exclusively a result of tumor metastasis. Since advanced metastatic cancers are currently incurable, understanding the biology of tumor metastasis is the most significant challenge in cancer research today. The early stages of metastasis between the resection of primary tumor and diagnosis of clinically-evident metastases are currently a “black box” in human patients, limiting our ability to predict or prevent metastatic relapse.

Therefore, uncovering the mechanisms underlying the metastatic process is the most significant and urgent quest in cancer research today, and an essential prerequisite for the discovery of novel therapeutic targets.

In the research published in eLife, we characterized the changes in fibroblasts (cells of connective tissue) isolated from lungs with micro- or macro-metastases from breast cancer, compared to normal lungs. We profiled the changes in all their genes and found that metastases-associated fibroblasts “turn on” inflammatory programs that support the growth of breast cancer cells.

You may also want to read a recent article about our work in The Jerusalem Post, which describes our research in lay-person’s language.

How can this affect the metastasis process in the future?

Uncovering the mechanisms underlying the metastatic process is an essential prerequisite for the discovery of novel therapeutic targets that may prevent metastatic relapse, rather than trying to treat fully-metastatic disease.

Can you briefly describe your relationship with ICRF and how you have benefited from our support?

One of the first grants I received when I opened my lab at Tel Aviv University was an ICRF Research Career Development Award (RCDA). It helped me set up my research program and recruit PhD students.

Since then, I received another RCDA and two project grants, so it is accurate to say that the ICRF has been an essential partner in my research from day one. The PhD students that lead the papers resulting from ICRF-supported research were paid by the ICRF grants throughout their PhD program. I’m truly grateful for ICRF’s continued support!
I consider the ICRF a partner in my research.

Professor Neta Erez
Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Women's Gynecologic Cancer, Prostate Cancer and Thyroid
 Cancer Awareness Month
ICRF Scientists on the Cusp of Ovarian Cancer Research Breakthroughs

The month of September features awareness of several different cancer types, and one among them is ovarian cancer. Below is information on the new projects that ICRF is funding in this area:
Ruth Perets, MD, PhD, the recipient of one of the new Abshez Initiative grants, is a physician-scientist and medical oncologist at Rambam Health Care Campus. High-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSC) was long thought to originate in the ovary itself, but has recently been shown to arise from cells in the lining of the fallopian tubes. In order to study the cell of origin of HGSC, it is essential to have good, genetically-engineered mouse models, but all of the current models also tend to develop other cancers over time. The goal of Dr. Perets' research is to develop a new mouse model that overcomes this problem, and to use it to test new ovarian cancer prevention methods.
Ziv Shulman, PhD, of the Weizmann Institute of Science, is the other recipient of the new Abshez Initiative grants. He, too, is studying HGSC in mouse models, but is using an immunology-based approach. While the body can mount a robust immune response to ovarian cancer, efforts to develop therapies based on that response have so far been unsuccessful. Dr. Shulman and his team will use mouse models to test whether patient-derived antibodies, generated in HGSC tumors, can initiate an effective anti-tumor response. They will also study the mechanisms that tumor cells may adopt to evade such a response, in order to optimize this approach.
Sol Efroni, PhD, of Bar-Ilan University, is one of three new recipients of a Len & Susan Mark Initiative grant. The goal of Dr. Efroni's research is to develop a method for early detection of ovarian cancer. Starting with a simple blood sample, his team will identify a molecular signature that is the hallmark of disease by analyzing the changes in the expression and sequence of genes critical to the immune response to ovarian cancer. Success in this effort will provide a reliable and much-needed tool for ovarian cancer screening.
Keren Levanon, PhD, another new Mark Initiative recipient, is a physician-scientist and medical oncologist at Chaim Sheba Medical Center. About half of the patients with advanced-stage ovarian cancer receive a standard chemotherapy regimen coupled with surgery to remove the tumor. Although initial response rates are high, residual disease cells may remain and lead to relapse. The goal of Dr. Levanon’s research is to provide early feedback about the response to treatment that will guide clinical decision-making toward effective personalized therapy.
Eylon Yavin, PhD, of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the third recipient of a new Mark Initiative grant. Treatment for ovarian cancer typically involves surgery that removes the ovaries as well as the omentum, a thin fold of abdominal tissue that encases the stomach, large intestine, and other abdominal organs. Surgery is coupled with chemotherapy to kill tumor cells. If surgery is not completely effective, residual tumor tissue that remains may result in relapse. The goal of Dr. Yavin's research is to develop an approach that will enable a surgeon to recognize and remove small clusters of ovarian cancer in the course of surgery by using fluorescent diagnostic molecules known as Peptide Nucleic Acids, or "PNAs."
Facts about Gynecologic Cancers

  • There are five major types: cervical, uterine, ovarian, vaginal and vulvar cancer.
  • Compared to other cancers, gynecologic cancers are uncommon, occurring in about 100,000 women in the U.S. each year.
  • Genetics, advanced age, HPV (human papillomavirus), in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol, may increase the risk of gynecologic cancer.
  • Treatments include surgery (hysterectomy), radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.
  • Symptoms vary, including bleeding and discharge, pelvic pain, bloating, constipation, depending on the organ that has been affected.

        Sources: Yale Medicine, CDC
Chapter News
New Executive Director for ICRF NY
Alan Herman, a resident of New York City, has been named New York Executive Director of the Israel Cancer Research Fund. Prior to this position, Herman served as Executive Director/Chief Operating Officer of Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE) (2019-2021), a leading national synagogue, where he oversaw all aspects of financial oversight and budgeting, fundraising, facility and security management, member services and engagement. In this role, he spearheaded the merger and integration of two historic synagogues, while navigating the complexities of COVID 19-related management.

Upon learning of an opportunity to work with a nonprofit organization that supports brilliant cancer researchers in Israel, Herman knew immediately that it was the right fit for him. “As a cancer survivor, joining ICRF is a gift that words cannot describe. Receiving a cancer diagnosis 11 years ago turned my world upside down. Now, being part of a mission and a team that is helping to bring about change so one day cancer will not upend so many lives, is very humbling,” Herman said.
Singer Guitarist David Broza Wows Guests in Chicago

Chicago ICRF Board Member Zivit Blonder, and her husband Steve, graciously opened their home to close to 100 of their friends to share the mission of ICRF and enjoy a private concert with renowned Israeli singer and guitarist David Broza.  
"I got involved with ICRF for many reasons, but first and foremost, I am Israeli and always happy to support my country. Unfortunately, I have had many family and friends face cancer, and I want to help eradicate this disease," Zivit Blonder said.
ICRF Toronto Gears Up
For the 11th Annual Revolving Tables
A diverse panel of mentors will gather together virtually on October 5 at 7 pm for The 11th Annual Revolving Tables panel discussion, moderated by Canadian television host Ben Mulroney. The interactive event will also feature Eden Grinshpan of Top Chef Canada and ICRF-funded researcher Professor Efrat Shema of the Weizmann Institute of Science, who will give an update on her research in the epigenetics of cancer. For more information, click here or contact Jennifer Ouaknine, Tel. (416) 480-9138.
Save the Date for ICRF Chicago's Virtual Revolving Tables
ICRF Chicago's Revolving Tables is back...virtually! Revolving Tables, a one-of-a-kind networking event, will be hosted by the ICRF Chicago Visions Young Leadership Board. Registration will open soon.
News Roundup
  • Genetic link between aging brain and brain cancers found by Israeli scientists (BioSpectrum) Scientists have found that a gene activated in glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, is also partly responsible for aging in our brain.
  • Google's Verily opens Israel R&D center; will partner with hospitals on AI in healthcare (No Camels) Verily Life Sciences has opened a R&D center in Israel and will work with Israeli hospitals and healthcare organizations on applying artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to important biomedical problems. 
  • Freezing tumor instead of cutting, Israelis pioneer new bladder cancer approach (Times of Israel) Israeli doctors have removed cancer tumors from the bladder by freezing them instead of cutting them out.
  • Breast cancer gene is less well known, but nearly as dangerous (The New York Times) PALB2 is not as well known as BRCA, but mutations of the gene can raise a woman’s risk for breast cancer almost as much.
  • University of Connecticut students raise money to benefit and raise awareness for ICRF and two other charities Gabriella Pattavina and Samuel Lombina, students at the University of Connecticut, organized a 5k race to raise money for ICRF, Girls on the Run of Greater Hartford and Girls on the Run of Southeastern Connecticut. With the help of Positive Tracks, an organization that “believes in the power of youth to make a difference in this world using their own sweat,” the students raised $223.52, which was matched by Positive Tracks and distributed to the three nonprofits. Kudos to Gabriella and Samuel for the initiative!