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Cancer Research Institute and Israel Cancer Research Fund launch joint immunotherapy initiative

NEW YORK ­– The Cancer Research Institute (CRI) and Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) this week announced the establishment of The Immunotherapy Promise fund, a collaborative campaign bringing together the Cancer Research Institute and the Israel Cancer Research Fund, North America’s largest nonprofit dedicated to supporting Israeli cancer research.

The new fund will promote research into immunotherapy, an approach to cancer treatment designed to engage and enhance a patient’s own immune system to detect and eliminate cancer cells anywhere in the body. The initiative will identify and fund the most promising cancer immunotherapy research being conducted in Israel, a worldwide leader in cancer research.

While immunotherapy first emerged as a form of FDA-approved cancer treatment in the late 1980s, it is only within the past six years that this class of therapy has begun to deliver significant survival benefit to patients, bringing it to the forefront of public attention. Immunotherapy was most famously in the news in 2015, when, after standard treatments failed to control former President Jimmy Carter’s metastatic melanoma, he began receiving immunotherapy in combination with radiation therapy. Seven months later, Carter announced that he was “cancer-free” and would no longer require treatment.

New immunotherapeutic approaches have been shown in clinical trials to effectively treat patients with bladder, head and neck, kidney, and lung cancers as well as leukemia, lymphoma, and melanoma, with clinical trials under way for more than 25 other types of cancer.

A joint review panel consisting of members of CRI’s Scientific Advisory Council–which includes three Nobel Prize winners and is led by Dr. James Allison, named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people for his pioneering work in cancer immunotherapy–and ICRF’s blue ribbon Scientific Review Panel will meet annually to vet and recommend funding for the most deserving immunotherapy investigations across the State of Israel.

Initially, The Immunotherapy Promise will fund four, two-year immunotherapy projects in Israel with additional grants made as funds are secured. CRI and ICRF are issuing a call for applications and expect the first grants to be awarded in the first quarter of 2018.

“The Cancer Research Institute has always funded outstanding science globally, and partnering with ICRF helps ensure that we can couple CRI’s immunological expertise with ICRF’s longstanding relationships with Israeli institutions,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, Ph.D., CEO and director of scientific affairs at CRI. “We hope our collaboration will attract the best scientific minds in Israel to focus on immunotherapy research, while also offering Israeli researchers unique opportunities for sharing knowledge, exchanging ideas, and fostering new collaborations worldwide.”

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