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Irit Ben-Aharon, MD, PhD

Irit Ben-Aharon, MD, PhD

Grant Status

Rambam Health Care Campus

Grant Type
Project Grant

Project Title
Investigating the short and long-term effects of in-utero exposure to chemotherapy

Tumor Types

Research Topics
Chemotherapy, Pregnancy, Quality of Life

About the Investigator:

Dr. Ben-Aharon is the Director of the Fishman Oncology Center at Rambam Health Care Campus. She completed her PhD in developmental biology, via a joint program with Tel Aviv University and the NIH, and is now a medical oncologist specializing in gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. She serves as the head of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) task force for young-onset cancer. Her laboratory is located in the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine at the Technion, where her research is focused on young cancer patients. One central theme is the toxic effects of anti-cancer treatments on fertility and blood vessels, and the second is the pathogenesis of early-onset GI cancers. Her current research emphasizes the role of vascular toxicity in the setting of chemotherapy during pregnancy and its impact on the placenta and fetus.

About the Research:

More pregnant women are being diagnosed with cancer now than a few years ago. This phenomenon is expected to rise, due to delayed childbearing age and increased cancer incidence among young adults. Pregnancy-related cancer is a complex situation where doctors must balance the risks and benefits of treatment for the mother and the baby. There’s not a lot of information available, so there are no clear recommendations for reducing risks or caring for the baby in the long term.

Dr. Ben-Aharon has spent the last ten years researching how chemotherapy can cause health problems for cancer survivors. She has specifically looked at how  chemotherapy can harm the reproductive system and blood vessels, leading to future health issues. Recently, she has been studying how chemotherapy can damage the placenta during pregnancy. Her hypothesis is that chemotherapy complications may derive from acute vascular injury leading to placental toxicity, on top of a possible direct effect on the embryo.

Dr. Ben-Aharon’s current research project aims to characterize the short and long-term effects on the heart and reproductive organs induced by in-utero exposure to chemotherapy. She intends to employ potential agents designed to reduce chemotherapy-induced toxicity. The results of his study may lead to superior care for the exposed offspring, as well as for pediatric cancer survivors.

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