In 1975, our founder, Dr. Daniel G. Miller, and a group of physicians and scientists in the United States recognized that despite the brilliance of Israeli scientists doing cancer research, they had enormous difficulty in obtaining funding for their work. That recognition led to the founding of the Israel Cancer Research Fund. Their mission was to further advance our understanding of cancer, facilitate discoveries that might lead to cures, and support Israeli scientists to avoid a "brain drain" whereby they left Israel in order to find funds to finance their research. Their dream was that a cure for cancer would come from Israel.
They began by raising what funds they could to support young researchers getting started on their research projects. They formed a scientific review board that reviewed and graded grant requests in the most rigorous way, since there were many more applications than funds to support. Only the most promising projects could be afforded. Over time, more and more funds became available, yet as the word of the ICRF funding availability spread, more and more grant requests were received.
Thirty-six years have passed since those initial efforts and it is truly amazing to look back upon our history and growth and see what it has yielded. Since that time, ICRF has funded over 1,900 grants worth over $45 million at 21 different Israeli research laboratories. More importantly, the results of that work have clearly justified the vision of our founders.
Two of our scientists whose research we have supported were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2004. Professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology are the first Israelis ever to win the Nobel Prize in the sciences. Their discovery of a process that lets cells destroy unwanted proteins, called the Ubiquitin system, led to a groundbreaking new drug to fight multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow: Velcade. When the Food and Drug Administration announced the approval of Velcade in the United States, they termed it "the first in a new class of anticancer agents."
But that discovery by our scientists is only one of many. The accomplishments of the scientists we have supported have been many, and thousands of patients treated with drugs such as Velcade, Doxil and Gleevec, that have resulted from their work, are alive today as a result.
Looking at our past accomplishments makes us proud, but there is still so much for us to accomplish in the future. This year, ICRF will be supporting 76 projects at a cost of $2,730,000. While this level of support is a new high for ICRF, it is still inadequate. Only about two-thirds of the highly graded projects that our scientific review board found worthy of funding were able to be supported. This is what scares me. What if one of those projects we were not able to fund would have resulted in a cure that may have saved more lives?
Please consider joining us in helping to support ICRF's mission of eradicating cancer. Each of us has been affected by cancer in our lives and we have all seen the suffering that it causes. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could spare future generations this suffering and if that result emanated from the work of Israeli scientists.
Your contributions, no matter how large or small, will help in this vital work.
Kenneth E. Goodman