A career in cancer research recognized by Israel’s highest honor

Prof. Yosef Yarden, a member of the Weizmann Institute’s Department of Biological Regulation, has been awarded the 2017 Israel Prize in Life Sciences.  The Prize, which is the country’s highest honor, will be presented to Prof. Yarden in celebration of his crucial discoveries about the biochemistry of cancer, in a festive ceremony on Israel Independence Day.

Over the course of his career, Prof. Yarden has made a significant and original contribution to our understanding of cancer, and has paved the way for new treatment protocols that have entered into clinical practice and saved lives. Focusing on the activity of hormone-like molecules called growth factors, Prof. Yarden’s discoveries have led to the development of several successful anti-cancer drugs.

Much of Prof. Yarden’s research is centered on EGFR and HER2, which belong to a family of growth factor receptors that play a critical role in tumor progression. As a result of his work, several strategies for blocking these receptors were devised and approved for use with cancer patients.

Most recently, the Yarden lab has been investigating strategies for circumventing the resistance that some lung cancer patients develop to anti-cancer immunotherapy. Combining an antibody that blocks EFGR activity with two additional monoclonal antibodies, Prof. Yarden successfully inhibited cancer cell proliferation in a mouse model of lung cancer, and slowed overall tumor growth.  This “triple antibody” methodology may someday form the basis of tailor-made, personalized strategies for combating cancer in humans.

An alumnus of the Institute who completed his PhD in 1985, Prof. Yarden has been a faculty member since 1988. He has served as Dean of the Faculty of Biology (1997-1999), Vice President for Academic Affairs (1999-2001), the first Director of the MD Moross Institute for Cancer Research (1999-2001), and Dean of the Feinberg Graduate School (2001-2007). He is the director of the Dwek Institute for Cancer Therapy Research of the Moross Integrated Cancer Center. 

Prof. Yarden is the recipient of a large number of prestigious awards, including the MERIT Award of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and the 2007 EMET Prize in Biochemistry.

Prof. Yosef Yarden is supported by the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation, the Maurice and Vivienne Wohl Biology Endowment, the Dwek Institute for Cancer Therapy Research, Rising Tide, and the Marvin Tanner Laboratory for Research on Cancer. Prof. Yarden is the incumbent of the Harold and Zelda Goldenberg Professorial Chair in Molecular Cell Biology.

Prof. Yossi Yarden