The US-based Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), founded in 1975 by a group of American and Canadian medical researchers and oncologists, announced on Wednesday 69 grants worth $4.3m. to researchers at 10 different institutions including include Ariel University, Bar-Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Carmel Medical Center, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rambam Health Care Campus, Technion, Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science.
According to ICRF, the institution has provided more than $72 million in funding over the past 42 years.
Studies in blood, brain, breast, colorectal and many other types of cancers will be funded by the grants, especially in the areas of cancer genetics, targeted cancer therapies and immunotherapy.
The grants are meant to support “specific research projects developed by individual investigators, which are innovative, timely and with potential for high impact,” it said on ICRF’s website.
Also funded this year were 12 “Research Career Development Awards.” These awards provide young cancer researchers and clinicians time to conduct laboratory and clinical research projects while they gain valuable experience and additional training on their path to becoming independent investigators.
ICRF has a long history of supporting fundamental laboratory science that provides the foundation for work with clinical impact. Hebrew U’s Prof. Yinon Ben-Neriah, who is also one of ICRF’s research professorship grant recipients, conducts this kind of research in his lab.
He told The Jerusalem Post that ICRF’s grants have “been very important to him.
“It is a big privilege to be able to carry on research for a very long time,” he explained, noting that ICRF provides grants of up to seven years with the option for renewal, grants that last longer than most available grants in the field. “You have an idea, but sometimes it takes 20 years to accomplish it. ICRF is willing to support it for the long haul.”
Early in his career, as an ICRF fellow Ben-Neriah was able to clone the BCR-ABL oncogene, which is the culprit of CML. Ultimately, he identified the first effective BCR-ABL small molecule inhibitor, paving the way to the development of the anti-CML drug Gleevec. The BCR-ABL gene shows up in patients with certain types of leukemia.
He said he will use the current grant to expand the scope of his present research studying signaling pathways in animal models.
This year, ICRF is additionally funding several early phase studies that seek to characterize the potential for clinical impact in the care of patients with specific tumor types, and three new awards were given for collaborative work between Israeli investigators and cancer scientists at the City of Hope National Medical Center in California.
City of Hope’s website describes how as an independent biomedical, treatment and education center it has “the infrastructure and collaborative energy to move from bold, innovative concept to powerful new treatment swiftly.”
These are the 20 Hebrew University researchers who received grants, and the topics on which they are focused:
INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION GRANT
- “Ittai Ben-Porath, PhD (PI) and Francis Rodier, PhD (Co-PI)” (Inhibiting Tumor Growth by Targeting Blood Vessels)
THE IMMUNOTHERAPY PROMISE GRANT
- Lior Nissim, PhD (“Lung Cancer, Immunology and Immunotherapy”)
BROUSE FAMILY INITIATIVE FOR QUALITY OF LIFE GRANTS
- Yafit Gilboa, PhD (Preventing Cancer- Related Cognitive Decline)
- Avi Priel, PhD (Developing Non-Opioid Treatments for Cancer Pain Management)
LEN & SUSAN MARK INITIATIVE FOR OVARIAN AND UTERINE/MMMT CANCERS
- Rotem Karni, PhD (Ovarian Cancer)
RESEARCH PROFESSORSHIP GRANTS
- Michal Baniyash, PhD (Colorectal Cancer)
- Yinon Ben-Neriah, MD, PhD (Colorectal Cancer and Cancer Stem Cells)
- Yehudit Bergman, PhD (Cancer Stem Cells, Inflammation and Cancer, Breast and Colon Cancer)
- Howard Cedar, MD, PhD (Molecular Genetics)
- Ofer Mandelboim, PhD (Immunology and Immunotherapy)
RESEARCH CAREER DEVELOPMENT AWARDS
- Zvi Granot, PhD (Metastasis and Tumor Cell Killing by Neutrophils (Immunology))
- Maayan Salton, PhD (Melanoma and Skin Cancers)
- Yoav Shaul, PhD (Breast Cancer Metastasis)
- Reuven Wiener, PhD (Anti-Cancer Drug Design)
- Gilad Bachrach, PhD (Bacteria, Breast and Colon Cancers)
- Avi-Hai Hovav, PhD (Oral Carcinoma)
- Julia Shifman, PhD (Proteomics and Protein Structures and Protein Engineering)
- Lina Jaber, PhD (Pancreatic Cancer)
- Asael Lubotzky, MD (Genetics and Genomics, Metabolism and Cancer)