ICRF 2021 Newsletter | Toronto

Dear ICRF Community,

To say that 2020 has been a unique year would be an understatement. The last twelve months have been a challenge the likes of which we could have never predicted.  
However, amid the challenges have been incredible victories and accomplishments to celebrate. 

ICRF held our first ever virtual Board Meetings, Executive Committee Meetings and Annual General Meeting.  While we missed seeing people in person, our successful virtual meetings allowed us to safely gather and share ideas about raising funds to advance cancer research in Israel.  With your support we held our most successful Bike for the Fight ever on a live virtual platform. We launched the Brilliant Minds monthly webinar series featuring live interviews with incredible Israeli cancer researchers.  We received the largest single gift in ICRF Toronto history of US $1 Million towards ovarian and female reproductive cancer research.  Over the course of 2020 we proved that ICRF can and will continue to evolve to meet the needs of an ever changing world. 

We embrace the new year with optimism and hope and extend our best wishes to all for good health and happiness in 2021.

Jennifer Ouaknine
Executive Director, ICRF Toronto

ICRF International 2020 Impact Statement 

2020 was an extraordinarily challenging year. Like you, ICRF faced a life-threatening foe that could not be avoided. And yet we pressed forward and powerfully advanced our dual mission of alleviating the suffering caused by cancer, while supporting the State of Israel. 

I am proud to share in this ICRF 2020 Impact Statement some of our accomplishments over the past year – accomplishments that would not have been possible without your generous support. 

Thank you.
Dr. Mark Israel, USA National Executive Director
Another breakthrough in the early detection of cancer - an interview with Dr. Lubotsky 

Imagine a world where with an innovative blood test that locates the hereditary material of dead blood cells can detect damage to tissue from a cancer tumor  even before the symptoms appear. A world where you can locate and treat cancer more effectively in its early stages! This is just one of the significant contributions that Dr. Asael Lubotsky focuses his research on - an investigator in the Israel Cancer Research Fund dream team!

Please enjoy this exclusive interview with Asael Lubotsky, MD.  Asael has an incredible story of resilience and survival serving as an officer in the Israeli army during the 2006 Lebanon War.  He had a long period of recovery from the wounds he sustained in battle and wrote a book about it titled: “From the Wilderness and Lebanon.”  As a result of his experiences during his hospitalization, Asael determined that he too would study medicine and, despite the fact that he walks on crutches, Lubotzky has since then become a qualified pediatrician working at the Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, focused on cancer research.  Asael Lubotsky was funded by the ICRF Toronto Chapter for two years. 

Dr. Asael Lubotsky

Personal Details: 37 years old, married to Avital - medical psychologist specialist in the psycho-oncology unit at the Sharett Institute, Hadassah Ein Kerem. Raising five children together.Travel enthusiast in Israel, loves swimming and diving.

Research Institute / University: Department of Developmental Biology and Cancer Research, Faculty of Medicine, Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Research field / subject: Non invasive identification of cancer tissue damage using blood free DNA methylation models

Why did you choose this area of cancer research?
When I joined the lab of Prof. Yuval Dor and Dr. Ruth Shemer, I was interested as a pediatrician  in brain damage due to seizures or distress in the birth of CPR. I've been working on understanding brain damage  and rolled into a study for early identification of Alzheimer's disease.  The study progressed and I found myself as a paediatrician dealing with the disease of old age. From there I continued to study metastasism to the brain and focused on understanding cancer processes.

What excites you in your work?
I am touched by the combination between the basic research in molecular biology and the clinical work as a doctor at Shaarei Tzedek Hospital. When I start a new project that deals with a specific disease and at the same time treats patients, I imagine how the scientific development could have helped patients locate the disease earlier and even assist in healing.

What is the main contribution your research has brought in the fight against cancer?
The research in the lab of Prof. Yuval Dor and Dr. Ruth Shemer at the Hebrew University is engaged in identifying pathological processes in different tissues in the body and detecting diseases through blood testing.

In my research I focused on identifying damage that cancer growth causes cells around it. By combining different biological phenomena (blood free DNA and epigenetics) we try to develop a 'liquid biopsy', meaning blood test and unique analysis through which we can locate which organs in the body have increased mortality.

In this way we are developing a blood test in a lab that can help with early diagnosis of cancer and no identification of metastasis location. For example, we were able to detect many patients metastasized in the brain or liver by identifying blood-specific markers indicating damage to brain cells or liver cells, depending on where the metastasis lived.

The hope is that the blood test will locate the tumor even before clinical symptoms appear and will help with earlier and more effective treatment for cancer patients.

What challenges you?
The challenge of research is amazing. Trace biological phenomena and trying to crack the results of the experiments is intellectually challenging, intriguing and giving new angles to clinical thinking as a doctor.

How has ICRF’s funding helped you?
The support of Israel Cancer Research Fund has allowed me to focus on incredible research. Blood taken from metastasized cancer patients and trying to locate the source of the metastasis through advanced DNA analysis produced from blood samples. The funding enabled us to sequence many DNA sections and promoted us with understanding pathological processes in the tissue of the tumor.

If you had an unlimited budget what would you investigate?
The dream is to create an epic map of all types of cells in the body and create markers that will allow us with simple blood tests to identify at a very early stage cancer tumours.  Such a method can locate cancer tumours of different types, monitor a response to treatments and save many patients.

What do people NOT know about cancer?
People may be aware, but it's interesting to know that cancer is actually made up of over 200 different types of cancer tumors. The scientific research in the field of cancer is advanced and comprehensive, and it's hard to predict how many groundbreaking diagnostic methods and treatments will appear in the next few years.

Who is your inspiration?
My inspiration is Prof. Howard (Chaim) Cedar, a world-renowned scientist with whom I was able to investigate in his lab. I wish I could be like him with his scientific curiosity and steadfast determination. Chaim comes to work with light in his eyes (after riding his bike to the university, this is how he has travelled for decades), always doing brilliant work, and has given the scientific world countless scientific discoveries. He is considered one of the fathers of epigenetics and his studies are enormously influential and put Israel on the scientific front in his field.

What do people not know about you?
I have a twin brother and we look a lot alike. When we were young, Baz thought of being a doctor and I thought about being a physicist. Today Baz is a physicist at the Hebrew University and I actually ended up studying medicine.

What tip would you give to beginner investigators?
I feel that I am still at the beginning of the road too.  I would tell myself and others to consult and learn from seasoned and experienced researchers and turn to an area of research that makes your soul shine. 
An update from ICRF Israel:
Can pancreatic cancer be suppressed?

The molecular mechanisms that cause early outbreaks and metastasism formation of pancreatic cancer are not properly understood today.  Dr. Lina Jaber, from Hebrew University,  part of the dream team of Israel Cancer Research Fund - ICRF, investigates the WWOX garden, a garden that suppresses the tumor and often undergoes a change among pancreatic cancer patients. In a mice experiment she examines whether the deactivation of the kindergarten promotes genomic instability and the formation of pancreatic cancer.  Her work may lead to the development of new cancer prevention strategies.

Israel Cancer Research Fund, Israel - Investigating life for our future
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