Study of a rare disease sheds light on cancer

As reported in Israel21C‘Truly exceptional’ Israeli scientist reveals critical genetic information about ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) disease and brings home a top American research award.

 Over the years, repeated requests for Tel Aviv University professor Yosef Shiloh, to relocate to the United States have always been met with the same answer: “Thanks so much, I appreciate it, but I’m going to stay in Israel.”

As such, one of the world’s foremost researchers of ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) disease, resides and teaches in Tel Aviv. And he has now become the first Israeli ever to win the prestigious American Association for Cancer Research G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award. An award that was followed up quickly by news that Shiloh has also won the Israel Prize.

A-T is a severe, debilitating genetic disease that attacks children, causing progressive loss of muscle control, immune system problems and an unusually high rate of cancer. There is no cure yet, but Shiloh’s work has revealed critical genetic data about the disease.

“Dr. Shiloh is an international leader in the study of A-T, and his identification and cloning of the A-T gene provided for the first time a definitive diagnosis for so many who had gone without one,” said Dr. Margaret Foti, AACR CEO.

“This discovery, along with his subsequent work, has played a critical role in increasing our understanding of DNA damage response and repair, which has important implications for cancer and other diseases. Dr. Shiloh is a truly exceptional scientist,” she added.

Shiloh will also receive a $10,000 grant, and in April will address the AACR, the oldest and largest cancer organization in the world.

“I was overwhelmed. Given the fantastic science being done in the US, I’m sure there’s a long line of worthy scientists deserving of this award. I didn’t think they would give it to a non-American,” Shiloh tells ISRAEL21c.

Shiloh stresses, however, that the AACR chose him for his work and not his nationality. “They based their considerations on … whether my achievements made a difference,” he says, giving credit also to the 12 research assistants and graduate students who work with him in the Laboratory for Cancer Genetics at the university.

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