Milk, Honey and a Cure for Cancer?

I have posted in the past about some of the advances in cancer detection and treatment coming out of Israel.  In a land reputed to flow with milk and honey, what often flows is a stream of medical breakthroughs.  It’s really incredible how this little country seems to lead in so many areas of cancer research, and if a cure for cancer comes out of any country in particular, it might just be this one. So, I thought I would laundry list some of the cancer developments coming out of Israel in the past couple of years:

Breast Cancer:

IceSense3, made by IceCure, is already helping American doctors destroy benign breast lumps by freezing them. In June, a leading Japanese breast surgeon started clinical trials using the minimally invasive, ultrasound-guided procedure to successfully obliterate small cancerous tumors as well. The cryoablation process takes five or 10 minutes in a doctor’s office, clinic or breast center under local anesthesia. No recovery period or post-care is necessary, and there is no scarring.  The treatment is also being pursued for lung cancer.

Monoclonal antibodies: Herceptin, a frequently prescribed drug for blocking the chemical signals that stimulate uncontrolled growth of breast cancer cells, is one of an advanced class of pharmaceuticals called monoclonal antibody drugs. Currently, these drugs must be administered together with chemotherapy.  An Israeli company called Immune Pharmaceuticals is developing a “guided missile” system which encloses thousands of chemotherapy molecules inside a monoclonal antibody nanoparticle. The drug payload isn’t released until reaching the cancerous tissue.


There are various types of cancers, such as melanoma, that use a “shield” to protect themselves from being identified by the immune system. A medicine jointly developed by Israeli and American researchers paralyzes this type of screening mechanism, so the immune system can recognize the cancer and attack it.  Research studies suggest that using the medicine (Pembrolizumab) yields impressive survival rates in patients with advanced cancer. The research tested 41,818 patients (1,800 of them in Israel), and took place over a decade, while the clinical stage took four years.  The new medicine yielded such strong results that the FDA approved it for “compassionate use” (the use of an investigational drug outside a clinical trial by patients with life-threatening conditions) and it will be given for free to terminally ill patients.

Pancreatic Cancer:

Many people know that a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is one of the more onerous cancer diagnoses.  In my book, The Layman’s Guide to Surviving Cancer (pp. 158-159), I write about the potential immune boosting (and possibly anti-carcinogenic) effects of mushrooms.  Israeli scientists at the University of Haifa have been testing a medicine derived from Cyathus striatus, a mushroom that grows wild in Israeli forests, and have found it effective in laboratory studies in treating pancreatic cancer.

Head and Neck Cancers:

Researchers at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University have invented a mouthwash embedded with gold nanoparticles, which provides a non-invasive optical system that detects cancer of the head, neck, tongue or throat.  This technology can diagnose cancers that currently must be confirmed by surgical biopsy. The solution was successfully tested in animal models, showing 97 percent specificity and 87.5% sensitivity.

Protein Research:

Researchers at the University of Haifa have been working on a protein-based cancer treatment using ARTS, a protein which, along with a number of other proteins and enzymes, regulates what is known as apoptosis (the process of programmed cell death which occurs when a cell is damaged, mutated or no longer functional). ARTS acts as a trigger for cell death by allowing for enzymes called caspases to destroy the non-functional cell.  But this process is missing in cancer cells.  The researchers believe that small molecules that mimic ARTS could restore the ability of cancer cells to be killed selectively using the natural process of apoptosis, and that ARTS-based drugs will specifically eliminate cancer stem cells (the cells that drive the growth of a tumor and are often resistant to chemotherapy or radiotherapy).  The therapy would also minimize common side-effects of conventional cancer treatment because, while many cancer drugs kill both cancerous and normal cells, ARTS-based cancer drugs should only kill cancer cells because they act by specifically correcting the defect in their cell suicide program, caused by the loss of ARTS.

A team of Israeli researchers recently discovered two proteins that can suppress cancer and control cancer cells’ growth and development. The study was conducted in the laboratory of Professor Aaron Ciechanover, an Israeli Nobel prize winner in chemistry, and led by Dr. Yelena Kravtsova-Ivantsiv. They showed how the proteins could repress cancerous tissues and detailed how a high concentration of a protein called KPC1 and another called p50 in the tissue can protect it from cancerous tumors.

Cancer Detection:

In an interesting development, Israeli researchers have developed an “artificial nose” to “sniff out” cancers and detect tumors by analyzing a patient’s breath.  The device can give results within 5 minutes to 1 hour. During its clinical trial, its accuracy rates ranges from 86-97%. (The device is also being customized to “sniff out” other diseases like Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.)

These are just a few of the cancer-related developments coming out of Israel in recent years, and there is more likely to come as researchers in the county hammer away at the mechanisms underlying the initiation, progression and treatment of various forms of cancer.  We can only hope that the cancer Holy Grail will be found soon in the Holy Land.

In healing,