Cancer Research Institute Media Room




Cancer Research Institute and Israel Cancer Research Fund Announce Launch of The Immunotherapy Promise Initiative

The Cancer Research Institute (CRI) and Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) today announced the establishment of The Immunotherapy Promise™ fund, a groundbreaking, collaborative campaign bringing together the leading funder of immunotherapy research internationally with 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 Immunotherapy Promise is a first-of-its-kind initiative dedicated exclusively to identifying and funding the most promising cancer immunotherapy research being conducted in Israel, a worldwide leader in cancer research. Unfortunately, private sector support for cancer research in Israel is simply not commensurate with the quality of Israeli science, and every year many promising research proposals go unfunded.

Why Immunotherapy?

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 U.S. 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.

President Carter’s response was remarkable—and melanoma is among the cancers most responsive to immunotherapy—but with many people showing more durable responses across cancer types including patients with very advanced stages of disease, analysts predict that over the next decade, immunotherapy will become the foundation of cancer treatment for most cancers.

How The Immunotherapy Promise Will Work

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. These awards do not permit university or research institute overhead reduction, ensuring the full amount goes to funding the most promising researchers in Israel.

“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, PhD, 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.”

Commenting on the partnership, Aaron Ciechanover, MD, D.Sc., who along with Avram Hershko, MD, PhD, became the first Israelis to win a Nobel Prize in the sciences for their discovery of the Ubiquitin System, the body’s method of removing damaged proteins, said, “The financial support I received from ICRF in the early stages of my career propelled my research forward at a critical stage and played an important role in some of the major milestones in the discovery path of the Ubiquitin System. Clearly, ICRF seeded my scientific journey. It is a debt I will probably never be able to repay.  I believe there is a similar opportunity now with regard to the promising and innovative immunotherapy studies taking place in Israel. I have never been more hopeful that the promise of living in a cancer-free world will one day be fulfilled.”

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.

“Perhaps no area of cancer research has shown more promise in recent years than immunotherapy,” said ICRF president Rob Densen. “For more than 50 years, the Cancer Research Institute has been the principal nonprofit advocate and funder of immunotherapy, working across the battle lines—from basic science to drug discovery.  We believe we are in the midst of a watershed era for immunotherapy and that this groundbreaking partnership has the potential to yield breakthrough research while building long-overdue appreciation and recognition for Israeli cancer research.”

Download The Immunotherapy Promise™ info kit.
Donate to The Immunotherapy Promise™ via CRI or ICRF.

Cancer Research Institute
Brian Brewer
(212) 688-7515 x242
[email protected]

Israel Cancer Research Fund
Beth Belkin
(646) 779-6819
[email protected]

About the Cancer Research Institute
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is the world’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to transforming cancer patient care by advancing scientific efforts to develop new and effective immune system-based strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and eventually cure all cancers. Guided by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Council that includes three Nobel laureates and 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, CRI has invested $344 million in support of research conducted by immunologists and tumor immunologists at the world’s leading medical centers and universities, and has contributed to many of the key scientific advances that demonstrate the potential for immunotherapy to change the face of cancer treatment. To learn more, go to

About Israel Cancer Research Fund
ICRF, a 501(c)(3) organization, is the largest charitable organization outside of Israel solely devoted to supporting cancer research in Israel. Grants issued by ICRF have gone to hundreds of researchers at two dozen leading research institutions, universities, and hospitals across Israel. The efforts of Israeli cancer researchers have resulted in significant cancer breakthroughs and were in the development of breakthrough cancer drugs, including Doxil, Gleevec and Velcade.

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