February 2021 Newsletter | Toronto
Thank you for attending 
ICRF Presents: Unplugged on World Cancer Day!

We are excited to announce that this year's ICRF Presents raised over $250,000 for cancer research! We are proud to have virtually welcomed over 1,800 guests to our online presentation.

At this year’s event the Alisa Lyons Award of Valour was awarded to its first recipient, Dr. William Tran of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. The award was presented by Alisa’s close friend, Dr. Eileen Rakovitch. The Alisa Lyons Award of Valour will be presented annually at ICRF Presents to individuals who embody Alisa’s spirit of valour. 

We thank all who participated in making ICRF Presents such a success.  We thank our generous sponsors and all of you for your generous support.  We could not have done it without you!


Israeli Scientists Say They Can Diagnose Disease, Cancer Through Simple Blood Test

JERUSALEM, Israel – A team of researchers at Hebrew University say they have found a way to diagnose a wide variety of diseases, including cancers, through a new blood test. The technology was created with the hopes of decreasing the need for invasive biopsies. “In diagnostic medicine, biopsies, where a sample of tissue is extracted for analysis, is a common tool for the detection of many conditions.

But this approach has several drawbacks - it can be painful, doesn’t always extract the diseased tissue, and can only be used in a sufficiently advanced disease stage, making it, in some cases, too late for intervention,” a press release from the university said.
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Fecal Transplant Could Boost Immunotherapy to Treat Melanoma


Immunotherapy, a type of intervention that unleashes the body’s own immune cells to better fight cancer, has been a lifesaver for some patients. But it doesn’t work for all, and researchers have been trying to figure out why that is. Now, results from a pair of small trials indicate that some patients with melanoma who don’t initially show a response to one type of immunotherapy can see their tumors shrink if the drugs are paired with a fecal transplant from a donor who had improvement after the same cancer treatment. The findings add to evidence suggesting that the mix of bacteria in the gut, known as the microbiome, influences immunotherapy’s effectiveness. 

The studies “were both really exciting proof of principle to potentially being able to use FMT [fecal microbiota transplantation] to augment response to immunotherapy cancer patients,” says MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Jennifer McQuade, who studies factors influencing the success of immunotherapy in melanoma and was not involved in either study. While both Phase 1 trials were small, she adds, the results support a move ahead to larger studies.

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Tamir Gilat, ICRF Israel Chairman and Cancer Patient - His Story 

Gilat was born in Berkeley, California in 1962 to Israeli parents who were studying at the University of California. The family returned to Israel in 1964, and Gilat grew up in Ramat Hasharon. He was a talented athlete and became the goalkeeper for the Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer team, retiring from soccer upon graduation from Tel Aviv University Law School.
In 2000, Gilat experienced what he calls his midlife crisis, divorced his wife and went back to school, earning an MBA and beginning a new career as an entrepreneur in the energy field. In 2003, he married Keren Nahari, a prominent lawyer. Gilat had a daughter from his first marriage, Alma, and he and Keren had two daughters, Gabrielle and Mia.

Keren had been diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after they met in 2003, but her cancer had gone into remission. “In October 2010,” Gilat recalls, “I started to feel discomfort in the upper part of my stomach.”
His father had died at age 51 from cancer, and Gilat joined a clinic in a major hospital that was considered expert in cancer prevention and detection. Gilat arrived for his annual checkup and told the staff that his body was “not in harmony.” The head of the institute reassured him that everything was fine and gave him medicine to treat an ulcer.
Several weeks later, the pain became severe, and Gilat decided to undergo a CT scan at a private clinic. After the scan the CT doctor was waiting for Gilat outside his office, and the news was not good. Both his left kidney and his pancreas were filled with tumors. Gilat had two different types of cancer – kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer.
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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 treatment 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!

Nobel Laureate Prof. Aaron Ciechanover – currently funded by ICRF Toronto in the name of Mark and Zita Bernstein z"l

"In order to have an impact, to leave the world differently than the world that you entered, you need to take the unpaved road.  And the unpaved road will take you somewhere you don't know."  Aaron Ciechanover speaks about taking the unpaved road and how it is the best way to leave an impact in the world.
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With a planned gift to Israel Cancer Research Fund, you can leave a philanthropic legacy that will help those touched by cancer – now and for years to come. Whether you would like to put your donation to work today or in the future, there are a variety of opportunities for making a legacy commitment to ICRF.

Please contact Jennifer Ouaknine at or at 647-973-4273 to learn how you can create a lasting impact on the future of cancer research. 


Our mission is to continue to find treatments and cures for all forms of cancer, utilizing the unique benefits Israel and its scientists have to offer. The results of the research have a significant impact in Toronto, across Canada and throughout the world.

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