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ICRF | Connecticut

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Awardees Len and Susan Mark at 2015 Scientific Awards & Donor Recognition evening at the Jewish Museum

Awardee Shari Goodstein

Brunch at Joe and Beth Fox's home in W. Hartford with Dr. Carmit Levy and Kweskin and Heffler, June, 2015.

Rachel's Society "Persian Cooking with Rosa Rastegar".  Andrea Greene, cancer survivor is the speaker. June, 2015.



Myron Arlen, M.D. (Surgeon, founder of Neogenix Oncology and ICRF Trustee)
spoke in November, 2013, to the Stratford, CT Hadassah Chapter on the topic:
"Could the Answer to Cancer Come from Israel?"  Pictured: (L to R) Dr. Arlen, Carol Tepper, Lillian Schlager, Al Schlager, Jon Cline, and ICRF National Executive Director Eric Heffler



At the kickoff event in Stamford in August for the
Connecticut affiliate of The Israel Cancer Research Fund:
(L to R) ICRF Connecticut Area Director David Kweskin,
ICRF National Executive Director Eric Heffler,
event host Len Mark, guest speaker Dr. Yossi Shiloh
and his wife, Dr. Shoshi Shiloh

Inaugural Rachel's Society Meeting CT, January, 2014.  
From R to L.  Lorraine Kweskin (event co-chair & charter RS member),
Yashar Hirshaut, M.D. (speaker and ICRF President and Chairman Emeritus),
Shari Goodstein (event co-chair & charter RS member),
Judy Sherman (NY Rachel's Society activist),
David Kweskin (ICRF CT Area Director)"

National group funding cancer research in Israel expands into CT

STAMFORD – It’s easy to get inspired by Israel, the young and little country that could, when the media focuses on its “start-up nation” status. But, what gets lost among the heartening statistics, is the fact that Israel has always been a victim of brain drain.

A 2009 survey by Israel’s Council for Higher Education revealed that 25 percent of the country’s academics were living abroad. Late last year, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics revealed that 14 percent of Israelis with PhDs in science and engineering have been living overseas for more than three years. In response, the Israeli government launched a program to bring the brains back to the Jewish state. The $5.5 million plan would not only help academics find jobs in Israel, but would also assist them and their families in (re)acclimating to Israeli society. Some 2,500 academics registered, most in the U.S., and the rest in Canada, Australia, Japan, and several European countries.

Nearly 40 years before the Israeli government initiative, a group of North Americans decided to launch their own effort. The Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) was founded in 1975 by American and Canadian physicians, scientists, and lay leaders to help curb brain drain by raising funds for cancer research in Israel. With chapters in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, and Jerusalem, the charitable organization has just grown by one affiliate, a statewide group started in Stamford.

At a kickoff event in August, Len and Susan Mark hosted a parlor meeting at their Stamford home with speaker Dr. Yosef Shiloh, an Israeli cancer researcher whose work is funded by the organization.

The local group is headed by Connecticut Area Director and Stamford resident, David Kweskin, who came to the organization through his involvement in the local Jewish community. During a decades-long career in marketing research, Kweskin was also active in United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien, where he served in several lay capacities, including president.

“I enjoyed the experience of helping Jews around the world so much that I decided to change direction and turn my avocation into a vocation,” he says. After a year spent exploring fundraising opportunities in the Jewish world, Kweskin learned of ICRF. Along the way, he became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Connecticut chapter, where he won the local 2013 Man of the Year title in a fundraising competition for blood-cancer research.

“What I love about ICRF is the fact that the organization is exclusively focused on cancer research and that that is the reason behind the organization, to fund brilliant Israeli scientists,” Kweskin says. “Like many people, cancer has been an unfortunate part of my life: I lost a grandmother to lymphoma, my mother is a survivor of lymphoma, and my wife lost an uncle to cancer.”

Supported solely by private donations, ICRF sponsors an annual grant-review process conducted by a panel of U.S. and Canadian scientists and oncologists, based on the National Institutes of Health grant-making procedure. Grants are awarded to the most promising and capable Israeli cancer researchers at the leading academic and research centers in Israel, and are made solely on the basis of scientific merit and the ability of the individual scientist to make a significant impact in his or her field. Since 1977, ICRF has awarded more than 2,000 grants totaling almost $49 million via fellowships, project grants, career-development awards, and professorships. For the 2013-14 funding year, ICRF is supporting 82 grants for a total of $2,063,332 million, the highest amount awarded thus far.

Many of the ICRF-funded scientists have made medical breakthroughs — many of which have made a direct, life-saving difference for people living with cancer.

So far, ICRF-funded scientists have produced three FDA-approved drugs and two Nobel Prize-winning chemists. ICRF is also interested in nurturing up-and-coming researchers as well, Kweskin says.

With several Connecticut donors, Kweskin is seeking greater involvement from the community and is organizing an informal committee of advisors and supporters to help spread the word. The parlor meeting served as a kickoff event and drew some 35 Connecticut ICRF donors, including philanthropists Dr. Raymond and Beverly Sackler, who funded the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, together with Drs. Arthur and Mortimer Sackler. The facility is home to the David and Inez Myers Laboratory for Cancer Genetics, overseen by Dr. Shiloh.

Shiloh described his lab’s investigation of ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T), also known as the Louis-Bar syndrome, a human genetic disorder in which a central axis of the DNA damage response is missing, compromising the stability and integrity of the cellular genome. As a PhD student of human genetics in the late ‘70s, Shiloh was considering a move away from the study of rare genetic diseases when his advisor asked him to visit a Moroccan-Israeli family where three of five children shared a severe neurological disability. After one meeting with the family, Shiloh decided to dedicate his life’s work to understanding and treating the disease. In 1995, he revolutionized the research when his lab identified and cloned the A-T gene.