Johns Hopkins Medicine
Office of Corporate Communications
Media Contact: Vanessa Wasta or Amy Heaps
410-955-1287; [email protected]
March 1, 2005

[Note: media wishing to attend the conference should contact on-site representative: Miri Ziv, Israel Cancer Association, cell: 011 972 050 525 8776]

--Seek to Reduce Israel’s “scientific isolation” over past four years

Leading cancer researchers from Baltimore, Miami and New Jersey have organized the first Joint American-Israeli Conference on Cancer. The meeting, scheduled for March 16 through 18 in Jerusalem, seeks to foster collaboration among physicians and scientists in the two countries. Close to 200 cancer experts from institutions throughout Israel and the United States are expected to attend, making it Israel’s largest scientific conference in at least four years, according to the conference planners.

“We feel that over the past few years, Israel --- pound-for-pound a relative research powerhouse --- has been shortchanged by the lack of convention visitors,” said Joseph D. Rosenblatt, M.D., associate director of clinical and translational research at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.  Worries about security and violence in the Middle East are among the factors that have limited scientific symposia held in Israel. 

“With this conference, we want to foster ties and recognize the contributions that Israelis make to the international cancer effort and create real opportunities for the development of new therapeutic, prognostic and diagnostic approaches, based on interactions between scientists in this country and in Israel.”

Added Robert Korngold, Ph.D., of New Jersey’s Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center; “We want to demonstrate our support for the Israeli scientists.  They’ve been somewhat isolated and have not had the opportunity to interact with the scientific community worldwide.  There’s been no conference of this size there in the last four years.”

“There has been a long history of productive collaborations between American and Israeli scientists, resulting in significant increases in our understanding and treatment of cancer,” said Hyam I. Levitsky, M.D., professor of oncology, medicine and urology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.  “This conference hopefully will provide new fuel to this fire, sparking ideas, collaborations, and interest among research fellows in visiting institutions abroad.”

Nobel laureate Avram Hershko, M.D., Ph.D., who won the 2004 chemistry prize, will discuss his research during a dinner address on March 16 at the Israel Museum. Hershko, a member of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, was honored for his discovery of ubiquitin, a molecule that helps flag a protein to be broken down.  This system is used in a variety of cell processes including the immune system, cell division, and DNA repair.  Errors in the system can lead to diseases such as cervical cancer and cystic fibrosis. 

Scientists at the conference will address research advances in cancer genetics; cell signaling at the DNA/RNA level; immune system therapies; “targeted” treatments; novel approaches to breast cancer and solid tumors; and stem cell transplantation in the treatment of leukemia.  A mini-symposium will address environmental causes of cancer.

Israeli scientists made some of the first discoveries implicating the p53 gene in cancer, now considered the most commonly mutated cancer-related gene, Levitsky said.  They also contributed to current understanding of bone marrow transplant and stem cells, he said.

For more information about the conference, see http://www.hopkinskimmelcancercenter.org.

Conference sponsors include the Braman Family Foundation, the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute (FAMRI), and the Israel Cancer Association in Israel and the United States. 

Levitsky and colleagues hope to make the conference an annual event, alternating between American and Israeli locations.