Israel is at the forefront of new medtech as well as research and development of new treatments and medications, specifically for cancer. Both the Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva and the Weizmann Institute of Science have announced new breakthroughs in cancer treatments.
Israeli startups are also working on curing cancer and cancer treatments. This month alone Nucleai, an Israeli medtech startup that uses artificial intelligence (AI) powered spatial biology to transform drug development and clinical treatment decisions for precision cancer treatments, raised $33 million. And Canopy Care, an Israeli medtech startup that offers an Intelligent Care Platform (ICP) for oncology, raised $13 million in funding. But such startups rely on the work done by the dedicated scientists in academia, like those all over Israel.
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The current treatment of patients diagnosed with advanced or metastatic head and neck cancer (HNC) is ineffective, says Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers. But, along with their international colleagues, they have investigated and validated a potential treatment combination against the aggressive disease driven by hyper-activation of a specific signaling pathway, which is found in over 40% of HNC patients.
The research was led by PhD student Manu Prasad in the laboratory of Prof. Moshe Elkabets in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Their findings were just published in the prestigious Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer.
Specifically, the authors showed in pre-clinical HNC models that treating tumor-bearing mice with a therapy that blocks this signaling pathway, sensitizes tumors to the immunotherapy of anti-PD1, resulting in the disappearance of tumors after the therapy combination. This effective treatment was validated in four HNC cancer models, and most mice were cured with no recurrent disease. Together with Dr. Pierre Saintygn from Lyon the authors also validated some of the findings in HNC patients.
“Our unique ability to generate pre-clinical HNC models and to investigate new treatment and treatment combinations provides hope for HNC patients. We sincerely hope that oncologists will test this treatment combination in HNC patients, as improving immunotherapy efficacy is crucial for prolonging the survival of cancer patients,” says Prof. Elkabets.
The study was conducted by national and international groups from Soroka University Medical Center and Barzilai Medical Centers, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and Heidelberg Hospital.
As for the Weizmann Institute of Science, its researchers say that they have found a new and safe way to safely administer an immunotherapy drug to cancer patients that, unfortunately, has been considered until now to be too toxic to recipients, thereby making the cure worse than the disease. The scientists made the alteration by creating a new antibody that they added to the treatment.
The scientists published their results in the journal Nature Cancer.
“We have found a way to make the antibody apply itself very selectively, so it just stimulates cells that give immunity and doesn’t impact other cells,” said Weizmann immunologist Prof. Rony Dahan, who collaborated with PhD students Hagar Rotem and Dr. Ran Salomon on the study.
“We developed a special new antibody molecule, which integrates the initial antibody, and only goes where we want it. It reaches solely the cell types we want to reach, and by doing this, its toxic effect on other cells in the body is significantly reduced.”