top TOP
June 14, 2024

Cutting-Edge Research is Just One Way He Saves Lives

A Father’s Day Story Featuring Professor Ariel Munitz

Professor Ariel Munitz, like all of our scientists, is a hero who dedicates his life to curing cancer. But that barely even scratches the surface.

He’s also a father of three children currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), a marathon runner, and a true mensch – always looking for ways to help others. Inspired by the need to act in the aftermath of October 7th, Prof. Munitz immediately returned to his former unit and voluntarily served in the IDF. Months later, he donated a kidney to save the life of someone he doesn’t even know. Prof. Munitz represents the true spirit of Israel and the best of humanity. We’re inspired by his selflessness, especially as we approach Father’s Day and acknowledge the male role models who give so much of themselves and expect nothing in return.

Prof. Munitz currently has an ICRF project grant funded by the Redhill Foundation. His lab is based at Tel Aviv University, where he is The Roberts-Guthman Chair in Immunopharmacology and a Professor in the department of Microbiology and Clinical Immunology at its Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. His lab studies how immune cells that are traditionally examined in the context of allergic diseases such as asthma can operate in cancer. 

On Fatherhood
Prof. Munitz believes that being a father means setting an example in everything he does. He recounts wisdom from his own father, which he often shares with his children. His father would often reference part of the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer, “Lecha Dodi,” which holds the powerful message, “think before you act and be aware of and think ahead about the consequences of your actions.”

Family Traditions of Service
With three children in various divisions of the IDF, after October 7th, Prof. Munitz decided to join them. “I packed a bag, went to donate blood, and headed to my former unit, which was an elite unit called ‘Maglan’ and part of the Commando Brigade.” He met up with his 24-year-old son who left his honeymoon early and returned to Israel to serve. Prof. Munitz made sure his lab was accounted for so his research could stay on track while he went to defend and protect Israel.

On Donating a Kidney
Prof. Munitz had been contemplating this for a while and knew that he needed to act. After all, if not now, when? His reasons are twofold. First, as a medical researcher, he knows it can take years to prove results, and this time, he wanted to do something immediate. By giving a kidney, he can save a life in an instant. The IDF soldiers are his second reason. “We have soldiers risking their lives to defend Israel and by that they’re also defending people that they don’t know personally but obviously care about. If they can do that while taking a huge risk to their own life, I can also take a much more educated risk and save someone’s life.”

Outside the Lab
Prof. Munitz enjoys running and completed a few marathons, including one alongside his son. He even ran the NYC Marathon with a colleague and raised money for ICRF to allow us to fund even more research. He’s also a big basketball fan of the Jerusalem-based team, “Hapoel Jerusalem.” Additionally, he likes to read and hike.

Why Cancer Research?
Initially, Prof. Munitz’s work focused on allergies, but he eventually made the transition to the cancer research space. His ICRF research development grant was the first cancer-related grant he received, and he’s grateful to us for believing in him and in his vision. Ever since then, his lab has made significant progress in understanding the role of eosinophils in cancer and following cancer immunotherapy.

He has been personally impacted by cancer as his dear friend Einav was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and eventually passed away. This personal connection helps him push through even on the most challenging days at work.

Inside the Lab
Prof. Munitz and his lab team study how immune cells (called eosinophils) traditionally studied in allergic diseases such as asthma operate in cancer. Eosinophils cause substantial damage to the lungs in asthma and are a therapeutic target. There are several FDA-approved drugs that target them and are used routinely in asthma. If these cells can cause so much damage in asthma, what happens when they meet tumor cells? Will they cause significant damage to these cells too?

Prof. Munitz’s lab began exploring this in experimental models of lung metastasis, either due to breast cancer or melanoma. They identified that eosinophils are recruited to the metastatic lung and have potent anti-tumor activities. They’re now working to understand what regulates eosinophil activities in the metastatic lung and whether they can use their knowledge to translate the findings into a new cell therapy.

In honor of Prof. Ariel Munitz, and all the selfless fathers in our lives and in our hearts, make a gift to ensure cancer research in Israel continues.

Help End the Suffering Caused By Cancer

The answer to cancer is research. Support groundbreaking cancer research in Israel today: