FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND CENTER BRINGS NEW TOOLS & PLAYERS TO THE GLOBAL FIGHT AGAINST CANCER
The Technion Integrated Cancer Center (TICC) brings together the best minds in life sciences, medicine, engineering and the natural sciences to decipher the basic mechanisms that underlie cancer and to develop new treatments and invent cutting-edge early stage diagnostic technologies
Scientists and researchers from around the world gathered last week in Israel for the inauguration of the Technion Integrated Cancer Center (TICC), a first-of-its kind hub for global cancer research, which will expedite the discovery of new diagnostic tools and treatments through a collaborative “bench-to-bedside” approach.
“Conquering cancer is one of the global community’s most pressing challenges, and it requires an interdisciplinary approach,” said Technion President Professor Peretz Lavie. “We need the collaboration between basic scientists, biochemists, cell biologists, computer scientists and experts in microscopy and imaging. We need the engineers, and we need the clinicians—and they are all at the Technion.”
Keynote speakers at the inauguration were Professor Douglas Hanahan of The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), who spoke about mechanistic insights into multistep tumorigenesis and its (evolutionary) adaptations, and common mechanisms that can be targeted by drugs; and Saul Singer, co-author of Start-Up Nation, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, who said expressed his opinion that in no more than 10 years we will all wear wearable sensors that will monitor our health parameters and detect diseases in an early stage, when they are still curable.
“It’s a great honor to be here at the Technion, one of the key founding institutions of Start-up Nation, and to speak to real experts about the future of health,” said Singer. He suggested that a new paradigm of health – focused on early detection, biomarker identification, real-time sensors and data science – will be the foundation for finding novel cancer treatments and cures.
In addition to serving as a hub for multiple fields of research, the TICC will also be a nexus for the Technion’s five affiliated hospitals that run clinical trials. It will be co-led by Professor Ze’ev Ronai and Distinguished Professor Aaron Ciechanover – who along with Technion Professor Avram Hershko and the late Dr. Irwin Rose won the 2004 Nobel Prize for the discovery of the ubiquitin system, a discovery which led to the development of efficient anti-cancer drugs, e.g. Velcade® for Multiple Myeloma. Professor Eyal Gottlieb, an expert in cancer metabolism, who investigates the role of altered energy metabolism in supporting cancer development, heads the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Metabolomics Center under TICC.
“The TICC makes possible powerful connections between engineers, advanced cancer researchers and clinicians,” said Prof. Ronai, who is best known for his important contributions in mapping the landscape of cancer signalling, the thriving of cancer cells under harsh conditions, and the heterogeneity of tumors. “These connections will drive the development of novel diagnostic tools and treatments that will ultimately result in better outcomes for patients.”
“For me, the inauguration of this center is a personal closure,” said Prof. Ciechanover. “I was born in Haifa, studied medicine in Jerusalem and went back to the Technion to complete my studies in life sciences. Here, during my graduate studies under the supervision of Prof. Avram Hershko, we discovered the ubiquitin system that regulates the degradation of proteins in the cell. This discovery, which led to the development of revolutionary treatments for cancer, took place when life sciences and medicine on one hand, and engineering on the other hand, were considered to be distinct disciplines, and the Technion was proud for being a leading engineering university with little emphasis given to biomedical research. Nowadays, nobody denies that medicine, basic sciences, and engineering are essentially a single discipline. Nature does not distinguish between physics, chemistry, biology and medicine – they are all on one continuum.
“And as for the war on cancer – the sequencing of human genome that is being carried today in a fast and cheap way, will lead to the discovery of new mutations and will enable early detection of tumors which will lead in turn to the development of novel therapeutic modalities. While the mortality curves have not started to go down yet, they certainly will, and soon I hope. In the best case we will conquer cancer; in the worst case we will make this terminal disease a chronic one.”
Among the scientists present were Lewis Cantley, from Weill Cornell Medical College; Keith Flaherty, from the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and Massachusetts General Hospital; Carlos Caldas, from Cambridge University; Celeste Simone, from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; and many of Israel’s top scientists from the Technion, Tel Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“We will not wake up to a New York Times headline that says ‘Cancer is cured!,’ said Prof. Ciechanover. “But we will discover treatments one by one, until the day will come when we will live in a cancer-free world.”
To learn more, visit http://ticc.net.technion.ac.il/
Major support for the Technion Integrated Cancer Society was provided by the Crown Family and Laura and Isaac Perlmutter.