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February 23, 2021

Erez Hasnis, MD, PhD

Rambam Health Care Campus

ICRF-Israel Ministry of Science and Technology Gesher Award for Academic Excellence in the Field of Cancer Research

Scientist Spotlight:
An Interview with Dr. Erez Hasnis

Project Title: Role of RNF 125 gene in delaying the development of pancreatic cancer 

Why did you decide to pursue this specific research? 

When I began my internal medicine specialization, I recognized fairly quickly that unlike other common diseases, such as heart disease, inflammatory diseases and infections, cancer has so many unanswered questions, especially pancreatic cancer. When I was pursuing a post-doctorate fellowship at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, the researchers were focusing on the role of RNF 125 in delaying melanoma and found some data that suggested it was also important in pancreatic cancer. And so I began my journey! 

What excites you in your work? 

The discovery. Even of simple things. Everything you do or investigate is new and no one has done it before you. 

“The possibilities are limitless, and it will be exciting to see what we learn in the next few months.”

Dr. Erez Hasnis
Rambam Health Care Campus
ICRF Gesher Award Recipient

How is your research expected to contribute in the fight against cancer? 

In recent years, research has provided insights into the biological mechanisms that pancreatic cells employ to overtake normal pancreatic tissue in early stages of the disease. This allows the cancer to be aggressive, resistant to treatment, and capable of spreading to other sites. I have been able to identify one of these mechanisms, and it is an exit point for me to understand where it is possible to stop the process and reduce the aggression of the growth. 

What challenges you? 


How does funding from ICRF assist you in your work? 

A great deal. The assistance will allow me and my students to focus on identifying additional proteins affected by RNF 125 and the changes to these proteins following the transformation of a normal cell to a cancerous cell. The possibilities are limitless, and it will be exciting to see what we learn in the next few months. 

What would you investigate with an unlimited budget? 

I would build a survey system to identify what genes pancreatic cancer utilizes to produce metastasis. After identifying these genes, I would check to see which ones can be damaged and delay the development of metastasis. Delaying the development of metastases, mainly in the liver, will mean that many more patients can be treated by complete surgical removal of the tumor at the site it originally occurred, and prolonging their lives. 

What are some of the challenges in cancer research? 

Everyone knows how hard the doctors work in the field, fewer know how intensely cancer scientists work, conducting experiment after experiment, laboring over results , analyzing data, and struggling to decide whether and how to move forward to advanced experiments, perhaps animal experiments. And when looking for new drugs, scientists often need to learn to employ robots that work 24 hours a day for months, in order to identify a molecule that will inhibit a potential target. And all that is done before the human experimentations. The feeling of urgency definitely exists for scientists in research and it is rarely understood or appreciated. 

Who is your inspiration? 

Doctors who have succeeded, with hard work, to combine a career of impressive research with clinical work. 

What is something that people do not know about you? 

If I did not do research, it would be very difficult for me to continue doing my daily work in clinical medicine. The combination of both fields produces balance and interest, and prevents burnout.

Learn more about Dr. Hasnis and explore all of the current ICRF grant recipients selected for funding in 2020-2021.

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