JULY 2021
Welcome from New ICRF Executive Director,
Beryl P. Chernov
Today, with unbridled excitement, I officially begin my tenure as the National Executive Director of ICRF. For the last six months I have had the privilege of embarking on a "listening tour" where I met our amazing international staff, reached out to our brilliant scientists, spoke with dedicated members of the board, attended numerous virtual events, and learned the countless ways that ICRF is furthering its mission to end the scourge of cancer.

First, I must express profound gratitude to Dr. Mark Israel, ICRF’s immediate past Executive Director, and Rob Densen, immediate past International President, for their assistance during this transition. Looking forward, David Abramson, our current International President, and Bryna Goldberg, International Chair, have been valuable and supportive partners. Together we dream and strategize about ICRF’s future...

To date, ICRF has awarded nearly $80 million for over 2,500 grants to hundreds of scientists conducting groundbreaking cancer research across Israel. One day we hope to say we have allocated $800 million for 25,000 grants. With your help, and the palpable energy and determination of our staff and supporters, along with the remarkable ingenuity and genius of our researchers, we will reach this goal!

We will soon embark on several new strategic initiatives. Read more...
Beryl Chernov
ICRF Scientist Shares Exciting Stem Cell Developments
Professor Jacob Hanna is a recipient of a seven-year ICRF Research Professorship Grant, where he is studying both human embryonic stem cells (or ESCs, cells that can differentiate into any cell type in the body) and induced pluripotent stem cells (or iPSCs, stem cells derived from cellular reprogramming) in the context of cancer therapy. Since iPSCs hold promise for the regrowth of damaged tissues in cancer patients, Professor Hanna is evaluating their safety, in order to reduce the risk of tumor reoccurrence. Additionally, female cancer survivors are often rendered infertile after chemotherapy, and he hopes that the use of iPSCs may one day revolutionize infertility treatment. Professor Hanna spoke to ICRF about recent developments in his lab.

Earlier this year you were interviewed in The New York Times about growing mouse embryos in a mechanical womb. How does that relate to your ICRF research?

We often find that we are attacking the same problems from different angles. We are trying overall to take stem cells from patients and put them back into the patient for therapy. ICRF is funding us so we can use stem cells to make eggs. Concurrently, we are looking at how to produce entire embryos from stem cells. It’s a parallel process, an intercross of ideas.

What was the most important part of your recent discovery with mouse embryos?

There was no Eureka moment. It was a prolonged effort to be able to grow an embryo from a bunch of cells so it can produce all of its organs. We always thought that in mammalians, the uterus was the irreplaceable environment for embryos to develop. Now we are showing in mice that this is no longer true. This demonstrates the power, the potential of stem cells. The stem cells in the embryos are the drivers of making organs.

What do you see next on the horizon?

 We are interested in how embryos make their organs. We want to look at monkeys, rabbits, pigs and other species that are similar to humans. We know about mice, but we need to understand more how organs are made from stem cells. I also see a future in synthetic embryos, which we call “embryoids.”

How important has ICRF been to your career?

 As a young scientist, the first grant I received was from ICRF, so the organization remains very close to my heart. It helped me to get additional funding because ICRF grants have gravitas. Then, as a recipient of the Research Professorship Grant I had more stability. I was able to do more risky, long-term research. ICRF grants are very prestigious and when scientists apply for other grants people view their association with ICRF with high esteem; it is seen as a stamp of approval.

Can you talk about the caliber of research in Israel?

Research in Israel has always been excellent. However, in the last ten years, research is now on par with most leading countries, perhaps ranking in the top five, despite limited funding from the government.

Do you have anything personal you would like to add?

I appreciate ICRF because it recognizes that if you can “kill two birds with one stone” it is worth while. My projects will hopefully be helpful not only to cancer patients but to other patients as well. It shows that the vision of the organization is not narrow in its thinking. I really appreciate that approach.  
Video: Prof. Jacob Hanna recalls his multi-year association with ICRF
The first grant I received was from ICRF,
so the organization remains very close to my heart.

Professor Jacob Hanna
Cancer Awareness Month

July is Sarcoma Awareness Month
Ewing's Sarcoma is Focus of ICRF Collaborative Grant
In 2020, the Israel Cancer Research Fund ( ICRF), the Alan B. Slifka Foundation (ABSF) and the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation (SWCRF) announced an innovative cancer research collaboration focusing on cancers driven by fusion oncoproteins in Ewing’s sarcoma or metastatic cancer. The partnership supports two pairs of scientists in North America and Israel, with each receiving $250,000 for two years. The first year’s progress will be reported in September at a retreat hosted by the Waxman Foundation.
ICRF Grant Recipient Professor Yosef Yarden, Director, Dwek Institute for Cancer Therapy Research, Weizmann Institute of Science and Elizabeth Lawlor, MD, PhD, Associate Director, Cancer Biology, and Co-Director, Cancer Basic and Translational Science at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, are exploring ways to overcome the abnormal proteins known to cause pediatric cancers such as Ewing sarcoma, a rare bone disease that primarily affects children and young adults.
Professor Ido Amit of the Department of Immunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, has partnered with Miriam Merad, MD, PhD, Professor in Cancer Immunology and the Director of the Precision Immunology Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. They are currently investigating how to alter the immune system to prevent metastasis, a process in which cancer spreads from its site of origin to another part of the body.
“We are thrilled that the evolution of Ewing sarcoma and the nature of metastasis often lethal processes — are the focus of investigation by these prominent researchers. We are excited by what formal cross-collaborations between Israeli and North American scientists will bear,” said Ariella Riva Ritvo-Slifka, PhD, President and Chair of The Alan B. Slifka Foundation and Assistant Professor, Clinical Faculty at the Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Ritvo-Slika was honored at the ICRF Tower of Hope Gala in 2019.
Facts about Sarcoma

  • Sarcoma is the general term for cancers that begin in the bones and the soft tissues that connect, support, and surround other body structures.
  • There are more than 70 types of Sarcoma.
  • Symptoms may include a lump that can be felt through the skin, bone pain, an unexpected broken bone, abdominal pain, weight loss.
  • Treatment for Sarcoma varies depending on type, location and other factors. Soft tissue sarcoma treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of therapies.
  • About 13,460 new soft tissue sarcomas will be diagnosed in 2021; 5,350 people are expected to die this year.
Dr. Samuel Waxman and Dr. Ariella Riva Ritvo-Slifka at ICRF Tower of Hope Gala in 2019
ICRF Scientist Makes Inroads
in Metastasis Inhibition
The results of Professor Tal Burstyn-Cohen’s ICRF-funded research, “Deciphering Antitumor Roles for Protein S,” were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in the “Medicine, Research & Experimental” category. Professor Burstyn-Cohen is currently in the Faculty of Dental Medicine at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The focus of Burstyn-Cohen’s investigation is on understanding the factors that control tumor metastasis because it is the metastases, rather than the original tumor, that most often lead to the patient’s death. Her lab research in mice produced the unexpected result that a molecule found in many tissues, Protein S (PROS1), which encourages cancer cell growth when produced by cancer cells, actually inhibited metastasis in the lungs when expressed by immune cells. Further investigation showed that PROS1 functions like a switch to restrain inflammation, which supports metastasis.

Professor Burstyn-Cohen’s research has been effective in identifying the role PROS1 plays in decreasing metastases in lung and breast cancers in mice. Professor Burstyn-Cohen explained to ICRF that, “This research finds that the same protein can either promote or inhibit cancer progression. We must now understand how these opposing roles play into metastasis, and shift the balance towards inhibiting metastasis. If the tumor-promoting form of the protein eventually dominates in patients, our findings may also explain why tumors acquire resistance to treatments.” She is optimistic this approach can be applied to additional cancers and to clinical trials in the future.

The work was led by Dr. Avi Maimon, who received an ICRF post-doctoral booster grant for this project. 
Video: Prof. Burstyn-Cohen on the contribution of ICRF to her research
Board Member Honored by UCLA
ICRF Board Member Professor Benjamin Bonavida, former Chairman of the ICRF Los Angeles Chapter who also served on the Scientific Review Panel and International Scientific Council, has been named a recipient of the 2020-21 Edward A Dickson Emeritus Professorship Award from the University of California in Los Angeles. The award is to “honor outstanding research, scholarly work, teaching and service performed by an Emeritus and Emerita Professor since retirement.”

A Professor of Microbiology, Immunology, & Molecular Genetics at UCLA, Bonavida retired in 2011 after a long and distinguished career involving research in basic immunochemistry and cancer immunobiology, teaching focused on the immunology of cancer, mentoring undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students, and service to the UCLA campus and scientific community. He has continued many of these activities with a high level of academic productivity since his retirement.
ICRF Montreal Features Comedy Team at Virtual Gala
The Montreal chapter hosted its 44th annual virtual Gala recently in honor of Jodi and Cookie Lazarus. The event raised more than CA $250,000. Noah Billick, member of ICRF Montreal Board of Directors, and Peter Rosenthal, co-president of Rosenthal Life Group Inc. co-chaired the evening.

ICRF teamed up with Just for Laughs Virtual Events to present a performance hosted by comic Elon Gold and featuring comedians Tammy Pescatelli and Tom Papa. During the evening, guests were welcomed by co-presidents Jeffrey Bernstein and Jordanna Feifer and greeted from Israel by Dr. Walter Gotlieb, chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board in Montreal. A special tribute video was presented in honor of Jodi and Cookie Lazarus, featuring geneticist Mary-Claire King, PhD, American Cancer Society Professor of Medicine and Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle.
ICRF Chicago Tees Up With Ravinia Green
for Golf Event
Ravinia Green is hosting a charity golf event in support of ICRF and the ClubCorp Employee Partners Care Foundation. The full-day event will feature two golf tournaments, tennis drills, swimming, in addition to breakfast, lunch and cocktails. To register, please click here.
2021 Ribbons of Hope Virtual Gala
Registration is now open for the second ICRF Ribbons of Hope Virtual Gala hosted by comedian and actor Richard Kind.
News Roundup