An exclusive interview with Prof. Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu
Personal details: 63 years old, travel enthusiast, enjoys bridge, loves his grandchildren
Research Institute / University
: Tel Aviv University, Israel
Field / subject of research
: Effects of surgery and mental and physiological stress on cancer development (cancer metastasis in particular)
Why did you choose this area of research?
I searched for an area where my academic work will have a significant impact on humans and their lives
What excites you about your work?
I get to engage in academic and applied research and work with young students and a variety of people. All in the hope of contributing to saving the lives of cancer patients.
What is the main contribution that your research has brought forward in the fight against cancer?
We identified that stress reactions (of a certain type) and inflammation reactions accelerate metastatic processes, and we managed to prevent these reactions with medicines during the surgery to remove cancerous tumors in bowel and breast cancer patients. The short medication treatment we developed also succeeded in a small research to prevent the return of bowel cancer (after 5 years of follow-up). Now we are starting with bigger studies (in bowel and pancreatic cancer patients) whose goal is to check if the treatment will indeed be proven to be a life saver among operated patients (hoping to succeed), and this is to become routine treatment. The treatment is patent-free, with minimal negative effects on patients, at a very cheap cost, and comfortable to use.
What challenges you?
To succeed in the clinical studies we just started, and to stay young in my spirit and body.
How has ICRF’s funding helped you?
To start the clinical studies that I mentioned above, a huge accomplishment.
If you had an unlimited budget what would you investigate?
A budget like this would allow me to do the research effectively and quickly. Today we are in a tough competition with pharmaceutical companies for cancer patients, and we are having trouble recruiting testers for research. The main intention of pharmaceutical companies is economic gain, through expensive patented medicines required for long use in cancer patients. We work with a very reduced budget for pharmaceutical companies and have difficulty publishing our experimental treatment among doctors and patients, as well as recruiting patients for them from pharmaceutical companies competition (in cancer studies, there are more studies than patients for these studies). In addition to the studies we started, there is another treatm
ent we developed based on immune activation around the surgery time, which I would also like to test for cancer patients.
What do people not know about cancer?
Perhaps the most significant progress in terms of saving lives is early detection, not innovative treatments, and most cancer mortality is related to cancerous metastasis whose development is accelerated around the surgery period.
Who is your inspiration?
My creative and innocent students, and my non-conventional children.
What tip would you give to beginner investigators?
Go big on their dreams, and don't focus on the next publication!