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December 17, 2021

Stories of ICRF: Jeff Kriezelman


Jeff Kriezelman, with his son Justin Kriezelman, MD in 2017 after 8 years surviving multiple myeloma with the help of drugs developed based on ICRF research.

My father’s face seemed to sag. He was healthy, a young 62. He hardly expected to hear the word “cancer.”

And I, a physician, never expected to be the one saying it.

Yet there we were, in my emergency room, talking frankly. His face was somber. “Alright,” he said finally. “I know I’m in good hands. We’ll get through this together.”

As a doctor, I’ve diagnosed thousands of patients. But when the patient is your father, your defenses crumble a bit. I wanted my father healthy. I wanted the best possible care. The best modern treatments.

“Today, the odds of surviving multiple myeloma are better than ever before. It used to be a death sentence.”

Justin Kriezelman, MD

That’s where the drug Velcade® came in. Along with chemo and stem cell procedures, Velcade was a critical part of Dad’s care. He took it throughout his treatment. He was lucky to have it.

And it wouldn’t exist without the Israel Cancer Research Fund. The drug was developed based on the research of ICRF Research Professorship grant recipients and Nobel Laureates, Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover of the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.

A decade earlier, Dad’s prognosis would have been poor. But Velcade was developed specifically for cancer patients. It’s a special targeted therapy, given intravenously, in carefully measured doses. It works by thwarting cancer cells and sparing healthy cells. It can work after other treatments have failed.

Today, the odds of surviving multiple myeloma are better than ever before. It used to be a death sentence. Now it’s a difficult struggle—painful, but survivable.

Jeff Kriezelman (left) with ICRF–funded scientist and Nobel Laureate Professor Avram Hershko, in Israel.

It was fitting that Dad received Velcade. He had always loved Israel and supported Jewish philanthropies. And I had always shared his devotion. When it came time for medical school, I chose Tel Aviv University. There I learned mainly from seasoned, actively practicing physicians—a virtue of the Israeli system.

Now we have another reason to love this great, large-hearted country. Since 1975, the Israel Cancer Research Fund has been supporting the world’s greatest cancer researchers. To me, they’re fellow soldiers in the medical army. To my father, they’re simply heroes.

I don’t mean to imply that Dad’s treatment was easy. Far from it. The entire process, starting with bloodwork, MRI, CT, and PET-scans, was painful and frightening. I remember my mother’s reaction, and
my siblings. We were all shocked and scared. We had to face the unimaginable: life without my father. What we needed most—reassurance—wasn’t available.

But we did have each other, and our father’s stubborn optimism. And we did have science—the most sophisticated treatment available.

These days, my father is in remission. He’s back practicing law, his life’s passion. It’s hard to tell the difference between the giving, energetic person he was before cancer and the giving, energetic person he is now.

But it’s useful to remember that nothing was guaranteed to him. Not his health; not his survival. He was utterly dependent on science. Cancer research saved his life.

And cancer researchers need our help. Because nothing is guaranteed to them, either. They depend on your generosity. Without it, they can’t perform their life-saving research. Thanks to people like you, they helped to develop Velcade. And with additional support, they’ll find the next great drug, advancing the fight against cancer.

I hope you’ll join me, my grateful parents, and our expanding family (nine grandchildren) in gratitude and appreciation of Israel’s cancer researchers. Their groundbreaking, indispensable work can make a world of difference. My father is living proof.

Justin Kriezelman, MD

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