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July 13, 2018

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PAGE 8A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 13, 2018 By Harold Witkov First person As a 66-year-old retiree, I play chess recreationally a few times a week. For the most part, I play in chess clubs that are open to the l)ublic and are drop-in. Such was the case, recently, when I did something during a chess game that only a handful of chess players in the history of the game can claim: I suffered a heart attack while playing. It was late afternoon on a Wednesday. All the other chess players had already gone home for the day. Kevin and I were the only ones remaining, and we were having one of our typical epic battles. We were in the middle- game when, like never before, I found myself so extraordinari- ly invested in the outcome, I started perspiring and feeling adrenaline rushes. My chest felt a dull and strange dis- comfort, and a slight feeling of nausea was upon me. But these seemed mere distrac- tions. It was only the game that seemed to matter. And then I saw my oppor- tunity. I could take his Pawn with my Queen and check his King. That would force his Queen to take my Queen and I could then recapture his Queen with my Knight, thus forking his two Rooks. I went for it. The game was mine for all practical purposes; but he wanted to play it out. With every move my symptoms intensified. Finally, he laid down his King and we shook hands. There was now a pain in the center of my chest. It was not sharp or excruciating, but it was a pain nonethe- less. I told Kevin I needed to use the washroom and that I would see him next week; he went home having no clue as to the inward turmoil I was experiencing. Once in the men's room, I threw cold water on my face and drank from the bathroom faucet, all to no avail. I walked to my car hoping that it was my asthma acting up and a magic cure awaited me inside my automobile. Sitting in my Camry, I drank a full bottle of Gatorade and took two puffs from my inhaler. Nothing changed. I started thinking the worst. I thought about calling 911, I thought about driving to the hospital. Mostly, in this time of great need, I yearned for the companionship of my wife, Judy. I drove home, a 10-minute drive, walked up the stairs, and told the love of my life, "I think I'm having a heart attack." Judy drove me to the hospital emergency room. Yes, everything pointed to a heart attack. I had a coronary angiogram that Wednesday evening. And on Friday, June 1, I had quintuple bypass open-heart surgery. My last words to my wife, before my morning surgery, were "I love you" and "God is giving me an improved heart so I can be more loving." My daughter and son-in- law cut short their vacation and rushed home. So many family and friends were pull- ing for me and my recovery. Loved ones got their loved ones to pray on my behalf. A lifelong friend told me he would ask his rabbi to say Mi Sheberakh for me. A friend of the family, a teacher at a Catholic elementary school, got her whole class to pray for me as well. I was touched to the core. I felt so unworthy. People were praying for me and I did not even know them. The hospital staff was won- derful too, and so caring. So much love everywhere. When I came out of sur- gery, Judy sat by my bedside. Despite my incoherence, she read aloud to me love poems by the Persian poet, Rural: Iput my heart on this hazard- ous road and unshackled it to follow yOU When you come to my mind, my heart starts to pound and tears oflonging drip from my eyes If you are a sea, Iam your fish. If you are a meadow, I am your deer There is a path from your heart to mine. My heart knows h ow to find it. My Judy watched over me every day I was in the hospital, and after I was discharged. She has been with me, taking care of me, every step of the way. After 33 years of mar- Harold Witkov and his better half, Judy. riage, I am not at all surprised, for I know her heart was never the one in need of repair. Chess and life have much in common. In both, it seems as though it's all about the King, but it is the Queen who moves best and has the great- est strength. So here is to my Better Half: my wife Judy; love of my life and Queen of my Heart! And here is to all the Better Halves of the world! By Michele Chabin JERUSALEM--There's a war raging in Israel with life and death consequences worldwide. This war does not involve tanks, drones or tunnels, and the enemy is not Iran, Hamas or Hezbollah. Rather the war is being waged in science labs and the battlefield is the human body. The enemy: cancer. Israeli scientists are experi- menting with a new weapon in this war: immunotherapy, which manipulates one's im- mune system to identify, fight and destroy cancer cells. While immunotherapy has been around for decades, new advances in the field coupled with recent drug approvals from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration have intensi- fied interest in immunother- apy and its applications for cancer treatment, especially late-stage cancers that resist conventional treatments. Im- munotherapy drugs already are helping patients with melanoma, lung, stomach, liver and bladder cancers, as well as some blood cancers. "Recent developments in immunotherapy have ush- ered in a medical revolution, representing a real paradigm shift in cancer treatment," said Dr. Mark Israel, national executive director of the Israel Cancer Research Fund, which funds cancer research in the Jewish state. "Cancer immunotherapy is exciting because, as opposed to other forms of therapy, it engages the body's own highly sensitive system for detecting cancer cells and destroying them," Israel said. "This area will have a major impact on cancer outcomes going forward." That potential is partly what drew Dr. Nathan Karin, an Israeli immunologistatthe Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, to immunother- apy research. He's studying whether the cellular mecha- nisms driving autoimmune diseases like Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis can be utilized to create immuno- therapy drugs to fight cancer. Karin and his team are researching the interplay be- tween two types of cells vital to the immune system: regula- tory T ceils and effector T cells Regulatory T cells help tame immune system responses and prevent autoimmune diseases. But by suppressing effector T cells, they impede the immune system's ability to fight cancer. "We believe that if you am- plify regulatory T cells you can treat autoimmune disease, and if you block their activ- ity you can thwart cancer," Karin said. Karin is among dozens of Israeli cancer researchers re- ceiving financial support from the Israel Cancer Research Fund. For the organization, which raises money in North America to support cancer re- search in Israel, one of the big challenges is deciding which promising research projects to fund. ICRF received 160 grant proposals in 2017 alone and can fund only a fraction. That's where a new partner- ship with the U.S.-based Can- cer Research Institute, known as CRI, comes in. Starting next year, ICRF and CRI will be partnering to identify and fund the most promising im- munotherapy research being conducted in Israel. A joint scientific review panel including expert re- se:archers and doctors from around the U.S. and Canada who are involved with ICRF and CRI will meet every fall to evaluate the most promis- ing Israeli immunotherapy research proposals, judging them on the basis of innova- tion, feasibility and likelihood of impact. The initiative is called The Immunotherapy Promise. The FDA approved the first immunotherapy drug recently, but the field dates back to 1891, when William Coley, a physician and cancer researcher, observed that some cancer patients infected by Streptococcus bacteria experienced a dramatic and spontaneous improvement. He began injecting the bac- teria into his patients, with mixed results. The treatment was nearly abandoned amid skepticism from Coley's peers and the advent of radiotherapy and improved surgical techniques. Today, however, new av- enues of immunotherapy research are underway, and the field is considered among the most promising new ap- proaches to cancer treatment, according to Jill O'Donnell- Tormey, CEO and director of scientific affairs at CRI. "There's still more research that needs to be done in order to realize immunotherapy's full potential," O'Donnell- Tormey said. "By partner- ing with the Israel Cancer Neta Milman, a scientist at the Rambam Clinical Research Institute in Haifa, is research- ing pancreatic tumors with an eye toward developing immunotherapy treatments for cancer. Research Fund, which is well known among Israel's top academic research centers, we will be able to support more lifesaving science in a country that is home to some of the world's most talented research scientists." Neta Milman, a scientist at the Laboratory for Applied Cancer Research at the Ram- bam Clinical Research Insti- tute in Haifa, is among ICRF's recent grantees. She is study- ing tumors called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, or PDAC. These tumors contain mostly non-cancerous cells that include a group of im- mune cells that promote tumor growth by producing small particles that transport genetic information to cancer cells. The small particles are called exosomes. "We're trying to figure out what the exosomes are send- ing to the cancer cells," Mil- man said. Exosomes one day could be a cancer-treatment delivery system because they can be engineered to target cancer cells, she said. Dr. Michal Lotem, who heads the Center for Mela- noma and Cancer Immuno- therapy at Sharett Institute of Oncology at Hebrew Uni- versity's Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, is receiv- ing funding to support work on a new checkpoint receptor called SLAMF6, a protein found in immune cells. When activated, these receptors modulate the immune re- sponse so that there isn't too strong a response against normal tissues But when it comes to cancer, the goal is to inhibit these receptor proteins so that the immune response against cancer will be as strong as possible "If you target this protein effectively, it can double or triple the effect of immune cells when they attack their target, Lotem said. Gideon Gross and his team at MIGAL-Galilee Research Institute in the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shemona are developing immune gene therapies, a treatment where a patient's T-cells are modi- fied in a lab in order to attack cancer cells. Gross, a pioneer in the field, together with Z. Esh- har at the Weizmann Insti- tute of Science created in the 1980s the first chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs-- cancer-fighting molecules constructed in the laboratory and inserted into T-cells. For his ICRF project, Gross hopes to improve the performance of CAR T-cells. For Karin of the Technion, who is well known for cutting- edge research into autoim- mune diseases like MS, the Israel Cancer Research Fund's backing enabled his first foray into cancer research. "ICRF's support was the motivation for me to get into cancer immunotherapy research," Karin said. "Now most of our attention in the lab is on melanoma. Without them we wouldn't be doing what we're doing." This article was spon- sored by and produced in partnership with the Israel Cancer Research Fund, whose ongoing support of these and other Israeli scientists' work goes a long way toward en- suring that their efforts will have important and lasting impact in the global fight against cancer. This article was produced by JTA's native content team. ,)~,~'[J y~j:, .: ~ / C~ ;" Custom Printing -:: .~ ~ Invitations&Announcements Digital & Ofl~et Printing ;~ Brochures & Booklets Direct Mail Services Forms & Letterheads Envelopes Business Cards i, 205 North Street Longwood, FL3275o k< Bring in this ad and receive 18% Discount