Cancer Re­search In­sti­tute and ICRF An­nounce Launch of the Im­munother­apy Prom­ise Ini­tia­tive

First-of-Its Kind Cam­paign to Fund Promis­ing Im­munother­apy Re­search in Is­rael, A Global Leader in Cancer Re­search

The Jewish Voice - - HEALTH - Edited by: JV Staff

The Cancer Re­search In­sti­tute (CRI) and Is­rael Cancer Re­search Fund (ICRF) re­cently an­nounced the es­tab­lish­ment of The Im­munother­apy Prom­ise™ fund, a ground­break­ing, col­lab­o­ra­tive cam­paign bring­ing to­gether the lead­ing fun­der of im­munother­apy re­search in­ter­na­tion­ally with North Amer­ica’s largest non­profit ded­i­cated to sup­port­ing Is­raeli cancer re­search.

The new fund will pro­mote re­search into im­munother­apy, an ap­proach to cancer treat­ment de­signed to en­gage and en­hance a pa­tient’s own im­mune sys­tem to de­tect and elim­i­nate cancer cells any­where in the body.

The Im­munother­apy Prom­ise is a first-of-its-kind ini­tia­tive ded­i­cated ex­clu­sively to iden­ti­fy­ing and funding the most promis­ing cancer im­munother­apy re­search be­ing con­ducted in Is­rael, a world­wide leader in cancer re­search. Un­for­tu­nately, pri­vate sec­tor support for cancer re­search in Is­rael is sim­ply not com­men­su­rate with the qual­ity of Is­raeli science, and ev­ery year many promis­ing re­search pro­pos­als go un­funded.

Why Im­munothe­r­a­phy?

While im­munother­apy first emerged as a form of FDA-ap­proved cancer treat­ment in the late 1980s, it is only within the past six years that this class of ther­apy has be­gun to de­liver sig­nif­i­cant sur­vival ben­e­fit to pa­tients, bring­ing it to the fore­front of pub­lic at­ten­tion.

Im­munother­apy was most fa­mously in the news in 2015, when, af­ter stan­dard treat­ments failed to con­trol for­mer U.S. Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter’s metastatic melanoma, he be­gan re­ceiv­ing im­munother­apy in com­bi­na­tion with ra­di­a­tion ther­apy. Seven months later, Carter an­nounced that he was “cancer-free” and would no longer re­quire treat­ment.

New im­munother­a­peu­tic ap­proaches have been shown in clin­i­cal tri­als to ef­fec­tively treat pa­tients with blad­der, head and neck, kid­ney, and lung can­cers as well as leukemia, lym­phoma, and melanoma, with clin­i­cal tri­als un­der way for more than 25 other types of cancer.

Pres­i­dent Carter’s re­sponse was re­mark­able—and melanoma is among the can­cers most re­spon­sive to im­munother­apy— with many peo­ple show­ing more durable re­sponses across cancer types in­clud­ing pa­tients with very ad­vanced stages of dis­ease, an­a­lysts pre­dict that over the next decade, im­munother­apy will be­come the foun­da­tion of cancer treat­ment for most can­cers.

How the im­munothe­r­a­phy Prom­ise will work

A joint re­view panel con­sist­ing of mem­bers of CRI’s Sci­en­tific Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil—which in­cludes three No­bel Prize win­ners and is led by Dr. James Al­li­son, named one of TIME’s 100 most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple for his pi­o­neer­ing work in cancer im­munother­apy—and ICRF’s blue rib­bon Sci­en­tific Re­view Panel will meet an­nu­ally to vet and rec­om­mend funding for the most de­serv­ing im­munother­apy in­ves­ti­ga­tions across the State of Is­rael. These awards do not per­mit univer­sity or re­search in­sti­tute over­head re­duc­tion, en­sur­ing the full amount goes to funding the most promis­ing re­searchers in Is­rael.

“The Cancer Re­search In­sti­tute has al­ways funded out­stand­ing science glob­ally, and part­ner­ing with ICRF helps en­sure that we can cou­ple CRI's im­muno­log­i­cal ex­per­tise with ICRF's long­stand­ing re­la­tion­ships with Is­raeli in­sti­tu­tions,” said Jill O’Don­nell-Tormey, Ph.D., CEO and direc­tor of sci­en­tific af­fairs at CRI. “We hope our col­lab­o­ra­tion will at­tract the best sci­en­tific minds in Is­rael to fo­cus on im­munother­apy re­search, while also of­fer­ing Is­raeli re­searchers unique op­por­tu­ni­ties for shar­ing knowl­edge, ex­chang­ing ideas, and fos­ter­ing new col­lab­o­ra­tions world­wide.”

Com­ment­ing on the part­ner­ship, Aaron Ciechanover, M.D., D.Sc., who along with Avram Her­shko, M.D., Ph.D., be­came the first Is­raelis to win a No­bel Prize in the sciences for their dis­cov­ery of the Ubiq­ui­tin Sys­tem, the body’s method of re­mov­ing dam­aged pro­teins, said, “The fi-

nan­cial support I re­ceived from ICRF in the early stages of my ca­reer pro­pelled my re­search for­ward at a crit­i­cal stage and played an im­por­tant role in some of the ma­jor milestones in the dis­cov­ery path of the Ubiq­ui­tin Sys­tem. Clearly, ICRF seeded my sci­en­tific jour­ney. It is a debt I will prob­a­bly never be able to re­pay. I be­lieve there is a sim­i­lar op­por­tu­nity now with re­gard to the promis­ing and in­no­va­tive im­munother­apy stud­ies tak­ing place in Is­rael. I have never been more hope­ful that the prom­ise of liv­ing in a cancer-free world will one day be ful­filled.”

Ini­tially, The Im­munother­apy Prom­ise will fund four, two-year im­munother­apy projects in Is­rael with ad­di­tional grants made as funds are se­cured. CRI and ICRF are is­su­ing a call for ap­pli­ca­tions and ex­pect the first grants to be awarded in the first quar­ter of 2018.

“Per­haps no area of cancer re­search has shown more prom­ise in re­cent years than im­munother­apy,” said ICRF pres­i­dent Rob Densen. “For more than 50 years, the Cancer Re­search In­sti­tute has been the prin­ci­pal non­profit ad­vo­cate and fun­der of im­munother­apy, work­ing across the bat­tle lines—from ba­sic science to drug dis­cov­ery. We be­lieve we are in the midst of a wa­ter­shed era for im­munother­apy and that this ground­break­ing part­ner­ship has the po­ten­tial to yield break­through re­search while build­ing long-over­due ap­pre­ci­a­tion and recog­ni­tion for Is­raeli cancer re­search.”

A joint re­view panel con­sist­ing of mem­bers of CRI’s Sci­en­tific Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil—which in­cludes three No­bel Prize win­ners and is led by Dr. James Al­li­son (pic­tured above) named one of TIME’s 100 most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple for his pi­o­neer­ing work in cancer im­munother­apy—and ICRF’s blue rib­bon Sci­en­tific Re­view Panel will meet an­nu­ally to vet and rec­om­mend funding for the most de­serv­ing im­munother­apy in­ves­ti­ga­tions across the State of Is­rael.

Im­munother­apy was most fa­mously in the news in 2015, when, af­ter stan­dard treat­ments failed to con­trol for­mer U.S. Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter’s metastatic melanoma, he be­gan re­ceiv­ing im­munother­apy in com­bi­na­tion with ra­di­a­tion ther­apy. Seven months later, Carter an­nounced that he was “cancer-free” and would no longer re­quire treat­ment.

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