Researchers stop biological clock during chemo

Girls as young as 14 who are exposed to chemotherapy for treating breast cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, and other non-malignant diseases such as lupus, put their reproductive system at risk. The chemotherapy can trigger premature menopause and leave women infertile.

New research by an Israeli team of doctors, led by professor Zeev Blumenfeld from the Rambam Medical Center and the Technion Faculty of Medicine in Haifa, has found an effective new treatment that helps keep a woman’s reproductive health intact while undergoing aggressive chemotherapy treatment.

Blumenfeld and his colleagues have found that a monthly injection of a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist before and throughout chemotherapy treatment can reduce the risk of premature menopause from 50 percent to less than 8 percent.

Blumenfeld and his colleagues compared ovarian function in a group of women with Hodgkin’s lymphoma receiving a monthly injection of a GnRH agonist. The women were given the injection before the start of chemotherapy until its end. Researchers compared these women who were treated with a similar dose of chemotherapy against Hodgkin’s, but without the GnRH agonist.

As reported in the journal Fertility and Sterility in January, only 3.1 percent of women in the GnRH agonist group developed premature ovarian failure. In contrast, 37 percent of the patients who did not take the GnRH agonist developed premature ovarian failure.

The researchers also found the treatment works in women with breast cancer and leukemia.

“We’ve just published a unique report of a young Israeli woman who had two bone marrow transplantations. She underwent a very aggressive chemotherapy treatment,” Blumenfeld said.

“With only one bone marrow transplantation, there is more than a 96 percent chance she would become menopausal and unable to have children. We put her on a GnRH agonist and now we were lucky to find that she is pregnant again with her second child. This is an exceptional case and probably the first worldwide of spontaneous conceptions after two bone marrow transplantations in the same patient.”

A GnRH agonist is a synthetic peptide modeled after a brain neurohormone that stimulates the pituitary gland to release hormones. The peptide has been used in a number of ways from delaying puberty in very young children to managing female disorders such as menorrhagia and uterine fibroids. It is also used in in-vitro fertilization treatment.

Doctors have long speculated that women who have been pretreated with GnRH agonists could be spared from suffering the lasting effects of premature menopause. The recent Israeli study strengthens the scientific argument.

Given to women from the reproductive age of 14 to 40 years, the GnRH agonist was able to suppress the menstrual cycle and temporarily create “a pre-pubertal hormonal milieu,” Blumenfeld said.

Due to a decreased count of platelets, a side effect of chemotherapy, the GnRH agonist injection also prevented the severe menstrual bleeding associated with chemotherapy, Blumenfeld found.

Currently, there are three other methods for preserving fertility in women exposed to chemotherapy and include preserving both unfertilized and fertilized ova. None are extremely successful. This new treatment developed by Israeli scientists could increase the likelihood that a sick woman will one day be able to conceive when she recovers.

Fertility and health is an important focus for Israeli scientists. Last year an Israeli team from Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem were the first who succeeded in removing eggs from pre-pubescent cancer patients — some as young as 5 — and bringing them to maturity before freezing them, giving the girls a better chance to one day have children.

According to Dr. Ariel Revel, from the in vitro department at Hadassah, until now scientists had thought viable eggs could only be obtained from girls who had undergone puberty.

Blumenfeld is a friend of Revel’s, and acknowledges that Israel is a worldwide leader in the field of fertility. He says that Israeli fertility clinics see in comparison to the population size more IVF cycles than any other country in the world — about 1,500 cycles per one million people.

“We think we are the leader,” Blumenfeld said. “Both the Israeli Jewish and Arab Israeli population are faced with social pressures to have more children. Maybe for this reason our reproductive technology and research is very developed.”

Karin Kloosterman is the associate editorial director of ISRAEL21c, a media organization focusing on 21st century Israel.

Fund assists Israeli cancer researchers

If mapping the human genome was the seminal biological work of the 20th century, then learning how to “read” those genes will define this century, said one of Israel’s top cancer researchers as he tinkers in his lab surrounded by tiny plastic tubes of DNA.

“What is really important is how genes are developed,” said Howard Cedar, a U.S.-born scientist at the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical School.

Cedar recently won the prestigious Wolf Prize in Medicine — Israel’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize — for his work on how genes become active and inactive during the normal development of cells and how this process is compromised in cells that become cancerous.

He is among hundreds of Israeli scientists whose research has been supported by the

Funding shortage and ignorance hurt pancreatic cancer fight

When Marilynn Lowenstein walked into shul on Rosh Hashanah two and half years ago, her friend, a doctor, took one look at her and sent her to the emergency room. Lowenstein’s skin and eyes were yellow — she was severely jaundiced.

By the time the congregation got to the “who shall live and who shall die” prayer, Lowenstein, now 62, had a probable diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

The diagnosis didn’t surprise her. Lowenstein’s mother died of the disease at 45, and two of her mother’s uncles had also died from pancreatic cancer. But when she brought up the possibility at every annual physical, her doctors had nothing to offer — there were no early screening tests, and symptoms don’t usually manifest until the cancer has spread throughout the body.

About 95 percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will die within five years, the highest mortality rate of any cancer.

While hard numbers have not yet been established, research has shown that Ashkenazi Jews are slightly more likely to get pancreatic cancer than the general population. Recent studies have linked pancreatic cancer to a mutation on the breast cancer gene that is more common in Ashkenazi Jews than the general population, and researchers are looking for further genetic markers specific to the Ashkenazi Jews.

Because of this new information, Lowenstein believes that the Jewish community should advocate for more funding and research for pancreatic cancer. A handful of new information sources and research are targeting the Jewish population. Johns Hopkins runs the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry, with Ashkenazi Jews as a subcategory of that group. A page on the university’s Web site has information specifically for Ashkenazi Jews.

One new study targets the Ashkenazi population as a subgroup of those in the high risk category. The pilot study, run by Johns Hopkins University, is looking for early detection markers among people who have three family members who have had pancreatic cancer.

The first two phases of the study showed success in using endoscopic ultrasound to detect early changes or lesions on the pancreas — 10 out of 109 research subjects with no manifest symptoms were successfully operated on after lesions were detected. The third phase of the study will also include blood markers, CT scans and MRIs. UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center is one of five sites conducting the trials.

But such research on the pancreas is relatively uncommon. Without a robust network of survivors to lobby for funding, and with many fewer people diagnosed than with more common cancers — 34,000 to prostate cancer’s 234,000, for instance — pancreatic cancer is one of the least researched and most underfunded cancers.

“We are about where breast cancer research was in the 1930s, and it’s all about the funding,” said Liz Thompson, director of Research and Scientific Affairs for PanCAN, The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
The Los Angeles-based nonprofit funds research, advocates for more awareness among the general public and the government and runs support services for those with the disease.

About 565,000 Americans died of cancer last year, with lung cancer claiming more lives than any other form. Pancreatic cancer was the fourth leading cause, with 32,000 deaths, not far behind breast cancer’s 41,000, according to the American Cancer Society. The five percent survival rate for pancreatic cancer has remained steady over the past 25 years, while in the past 15 years the breast cancer mortality rate has dropped 2.3 percent every year. About 88.5 percent of the almost 215,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer last year will live past the crucial five-year mark, the American Cancer Society reports.

Lowenstein, who before she became sick taught French and headed the foreign languages department at Hamilton High School, has turned to PanCAN for information and support groups — support she couldn’t find in the Jewish community. While her synagogue, B’nai David-Judea Congregation, has come through with a steady flow of meals, rides and companionship, she can’t help but feel overwhelmed.

“I can’t begin to tell you how alone and scared I feel most of the time,” Lowenstein said.

She has beaten the odds so far. She’s had surgery, several different chemotherapies and radiation treatments, and is now on her second clinical trial. But the tumors have spread throughout her body.

Like Lowenstein, most people don’t detect the cancer until it has spread — and, unlike other cancers, pancreatic cancer spreads at very early stages. Vague symptoms such as abdominal or back pain, or jaundice, can be signs of pancreatic cancer, but they usually aren’t, and since the disease is relatively uncommon, doctors don’t usually go to that diagnosis immediately.

“I think that understanding the causes of the disease and developing early detection are the first steps to really preventing the disease or catching it when we can still treat it,” said Alison Klein, assistant professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and director of the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry.

People with three close family members with the disease are 32 times more likely to get pancreatic cancer than the general population, and having two affected relatives increases risk nine-fold, Klein said.
Other risk factors include high alcoholic intake, smoking, obesity and age — the disease primarily strikes people who are 70 or older.

In addition to the early detection studies, Johns Hopkins is working on a “vaccine” that would train the body to activate its own immune system when it recognizes proteins from the tumors.

For now, treatments for pancreatic cancer are primitive — mostly chemotherapy and radiation treatments developed for other cancers. No drugs have been developed specifically for pancreatic cancer.

Lowenstein was among the 9 percent of those diagnosed who are candidates for the Whipple surgery, a procedure that removes parts or all of several organs. It is a difficult surgery with a long, painful recovery — and the only chance for beating the disease.

But after the surgery Lowenstein learned the cancer had entered her lymph system. Over the past two and half years, complications from highly toxic chemotherapy and radiation treatments, unresponsiveness to therapies, and continued metastases have qualified her for some clinical trials and dimmed her hopes.

The Circuit

Deborah’s Honors

Barbara Balser, national chair of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the first woman to lead the organization in its 91-year history, was the special guest speaker at its 10th annual Deborah Awards Gala on May 20 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The dinner honored Christina Sanchez Camino, director of public affairs KMEX34/Univision; LaVerne Davis, vice president external affairs, Verizon; Sarita Hasson Fields, president of Star Staffing Services, Inc; and Kim Ng, vice president and assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Deborah Award is named for the prophetess Deborah, who in the Book of Judges was known for her courage, wisdom and leadership. The awards are presented to women whose leadership in their professions and philanthropic and civic contributions exemplify the qualities of Deborah and the ideals of the ADL.

Before the dinner, guests were invited to look at “Faces of L.A.,” a beautiful collection of photographs of daily life in Los Angeles, which were taken by students of the ADL’s Dream Dialogue youth program, which brings together a diverse group of young people from different ethnic groups to develop teen leadership skills in monthly meetings. Two Dream Dialogue ambassadors, Shirley Eshaghian and Sina Grace, spoke to the crowd about how much the program meant to them.

Summing up the sentiments of the evening and the organization was singer-songwriter Daniel Nahmod, who played guitar and sang his original composition, “No Place for Hate.”

A Gala for Graboffs

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) celebrated its 150th anniversary on May 23 with a gala at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. At the dinner, Marc Graboff, the executive vice president, NBC West Coast, and Debi Graboff, a family attorney at the Law Offices of Rosaline L. Zuckerman, received the Spirit of Humanity Award, and Wells Fargo received the first Anita and Stanley Hirsch Award. All the awardees have been significant supporters of JFS. Marc Graboff is working to marshal the resources of Hollywood in support of JFS’ vital community services, and Debi has worked with JFS’ Divorce Mediation Project, where she helped mediate divorce cases in conjunction with a JFS family therapist. Wells Fargo has underwritten JFS dinners since 2001, and they also underwrote JFS’ “Still Listening: 150 years of Jewish Family Service” — an exhibition of art and historical artifacts that was presented at the Skirball Center earlier this year.

“Access Hollywood’s” Pat O’Brien was the emcee, while singer Barry Manilow serenaded the crowd. Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment, Nancy Tellem, president of CBS Entertainment and Lloyd Braun were honorary event co-chairs. The event chairs were Paul and Laurie Nussbaum.

Awards Awarded

Dr. Myron F. Goodman, the head of molecular and computational biology in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Chemistry at USC, and Dr. Michael Teitell, the head of the division of pediatric and developmental pathology at the UCLA School of Medicine received the Elliot Osserman Award for Distinguished Service in Support of Cancer Research from the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) in May. The ICRF underwrites promising cancer research.

Also in May, at Cal State Los Angeles, education professor Martin G. Brodwin and history professor Stanley M. Burstein received the $20,000 systemwide CSU Wang Family Excellence Award, which honors members of the CSU faculty who have distinguished themselves by exemplary contributions and achievements.

96 and Still Kicking

In May, Rebecca Matloff, 96, was inducted as a founding fellow of the One-Hundred-Twenty Society of the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT). The honor was conferred by professor Joseph S. Bodenheimer JCT president, in a ceremony chaired by Frances and Dr. Stephen Schloss, who are also co-chairs of the Western States Region of the Friends of JCT. The JCT is a world-class center for the training of Israeli engineers in high tech fields, as well as managerial accounting and management.

A Mitzvah Is Its Arab-Israeli Enmity Vanishes at Hospital

After exhausting the capabilities of Palestinian hospitals in Jenin and Nazareth, the mother of a 4-year-old boy with stomach cancer learned that his best chance for survival lay beyond the Green Line at Afula’s Emek Medical Center, about 10 miles from Jenin.

Quelling her own fear of becoming a target of Jewish hostility, because of the intifada, Samera permitted doctors to quietly arrange for her son, Halid, to be admitted to Emek’s pediatric oncology unit. While the rest of her family remained in Jenin, she lived in Nazareth for six months in housing arranged by one of Emek’s Arab staff members.

"She was received with compassion and warmth," said Larry Rich, Emek’s development director, who spoke with mother and son before the patient’s release last year.

"Halid, do you know your doctor is a Jew?" Rich recalled asking. "He said, ‘He’s a good man.’"

The grateful mother embraced Rich.

"It made my heart swell," he said in an interview during a recent trip to the United States.

To avoid being branded as a collaborator, most Palestinians would not admit to accepting aid from Israel. Samera bravely told her story to A-Sinara, the largest Arabic-language newspaper in the region. Her experience "was diametrically opposed to everything she’d been told," Rich said.

Yet, not even a small child is free of politics in a nation where every joy seems superseded by bitterness. When Halid’s condition worsened, Samera’s return was forbidden, according to Rich. The boy died earlier this year.

The 435-bed Emek hospital is a remarkable example of Arab-Israeli cooperation in the bitterly divided Middle East. Even so, because of its proximity to terrorist activity, its emergency room has swarmed with bombing casualties, and several among its staff have suffered disabling injuries from suicide attacks.

The hospital’s staff, about an 80-20 mix of Jews and Arabs, closely mirrors Israel’s population, where 1.1 million Israeli Arabs make up 18 percent of the nation. But the hospital’s patient population is a more diverse 50-50, where Jew and Arab often are roommates.

"Something magical happens here," said Rich, when families visiting at bedside drop their guard and commiserate together. "People begin to talk. The horns melt away. There’s no difference between them."

"We don’t represent the solution to the Middle East, but we are an example, a living philosophy of coexistence through medicine," Rich said.

Emek’s Detroit-born development director is taking on a quixotic challenge: trying to shine a light on the hospital’s good work by sharing its story with the American Jewish community, as well as the American Muslim community. His aim is to loosen purse strings and puncture stereotypes hardened on both sides by enmity over endless bloodshed.

The medical center has treated more than 800 victims of terror since the second intifada began in September 2000. Its emergency room treats more than 130,000 people annually.

Yet, anemic funding of Israel’s national health-care system has forced Emek to curb elective surgeries, hiring and research. Israel’s depressed economy has made more daunting a $100 million growth plan to add 12 operating rooms to Emek. The facility is one of 14 hospitals operated by Clalit Health Services, an HMO with 3.6 million members.

"Our current surgical facilities cannot cope efficiently with the normal caseload of a growing population," wrote Orna Blondheim, Emek’s director, in a pitch to potential donors.

On his first fund-raising trip to the United States and Canada that began in April, Rich spent six weeks going to 28 cities to describe the work of Emek’s 250 physicians and 600 nurses. In Irvine, about 75 people heard him on May 26 at an event organized by the Beth Jacob Congregation.

Rich realizes he faces a forbidding rival in the fund-raising machine of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. In 2002, the group raised $53 million divvied up among six major projects. They include its best known, the Hadassah Medical Organization, comprised of two medical facilities in Israel — the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center at Ein Kerem and the Hadassah University Hospital at Mount Scopus.

In Orange County, Rich’s sponsor was Tim Timmons of San Clemente, a one-time seminary student who has visited Israel 30 times and makes his living as a motivational speaker. Using his own Rolodex, Timmons tried to assist Rich line up speaking engagements.

"He’s not getting the response from Jewish organizations," said Timmons, who suggested he contact a Lebanese-born friend with political connections.

"I was warned not to overplay the coexistence message," Rich said. "I thought about it. I’m not going to buy into it."

The Circuit

Una-Daters Unite

Nearly 1,600 people packed Sinai Temple Oct. 10 for the Westwood synagogue’s monthly “Friday Night Live” singles summit, where a Toronto transplant said she was, “looking for modern, chivalrous men.”

The temple’s hallways were “like a Fellini film,” said a bachelor navigating a thoroughfare of short, fat, tall, petite, pink-booted, shy, arrogant, on-the-prowl, starting-over, major-attitude, rail-thin, obese, brunette, red-haired, balding, blonde, dirty-blonde and bottle-blonde Israelis, Persians, Russians plus Commonwealth, American, Westlake Village and Westside Jews.

The evening’s highlight was Rabbi David Wolpe’s chat with Journal singles columnists Carin Davis, Mark Miller, J.D. Smith and Teresa Strasser.

“I think that alcohol should be involved in all blind dates,” Davis said jokingly.

The discussion took a loud turn when a 30-something man in fraying blue jeans, old sneakers and worn sweater rose from a front-row seat where he sat on a thoroughly read newspaper, approached an over-modulated, questions-from-the-audience microphone and said, “I’ve literally been to 57 Friday Night Lives. I’ve run personal ads for 10 years. What am I doing wrong?”

“I can’t imagine,” said Strasser in total deadpan. As he returned to his newspaper-covered lair, Strasser commented, “That’s the Una-Dater.”

Wolpe’s dating advice to the panel’s overflowing crowd was simple: “You can go out with someone casually, but you can’t treat someone casually.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Brainy Fun

Art of the Brain, a nonprofit that raises money for the UCLA neuro-oncology program, celebrated the talent and zest for life of brain cancer patients at its fourth annual gala fundraiser, “The Bravery of the Brain,” at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall in September. The gala attracted some 500 people, who enjoyed food donated from some of Los Angeles’ top restaurants.

The event raised $300,000 for brain cancer research.

A Time to Mourn

The High Holidays are generally a time for reflection and prayer, which is why 2,500 SoCal Jews made their way to the Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries on Oct. 5 for the traditional Kever Avot (grave of our fathers) service.

During the service, the 50-voice Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale sang and Rabbi Sheree Z. Hirsch delivered the memorial address. Cantors Joseph Gole, Ira Bigeleissen and Chayim Frenkel sang the traditional prayers of “El Malei Rachamim” (“God Full of Mercy”), “Adonai Roi” (“The Lord Is My Shepherd”) and “B’Yado” (“In His Hand”).

A similar service was conducted at Mount Sinai’s Simi Valley location where Cantors Rochelle Kruase and Rickie Gole led the prayers and Rabbi Naomi Levy delivered the memorial address.

As part of the service, many of the attendees bought food for the SOVA Food Pantry in Los Angeles.

Hammer Time!

The audience of almost 250 at the University of Judaism’s Oct. 9 screening of the action-hero spoof, “The Hebrew Hammer” roared with laughter when “Hammer” star Adam Goldberg — the Jewish “Shaft” — guns down neo-Nazis while shouting, “Shabbat Shalom, mother——!”

The tattoo-covered Goldberg sat on a post-screening panel with the “Hammer” team, taking questions via Journal Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman. As a few audience members left, Goldberg eyeballed them and said mockingly, “maybe we should talk about Christianity.”

In a distribution plan unique for a low-budget independent film, “Hammer” will premiere on Comedy Central around Chanukah and then open in art-house theaters. Filmmaker Jonathan Kesselman said that in Israel, “they loved it — an ass-kicking Jew in a country of ass-kicking Jews.”

When Eshman asked why he made a 1970s-style blaxploitation movie about a Jewish superhero, the Van Nuys-bred Kesselman said, “Because I’m proudly Jewish. I wanted to make a lot of money — sell [“Hammer”] T-shirts to Jews.” — DF

What Do YouTHink?

Styrofoam heads, tzedakah boxes and student-produced public service announcements were all part of the social commentary art on display at the youTHink’s Open House Event at the Zimmer Children’s Museum on Oct. 1. YouTHink, a statewide education program sponsored by the museum and the Center for American Studies and Culture, uses the power of art to foster critical thinking and serve as a tool for social change. The program, which is directed by Shifra Teitelbaum, services public schools in Los Angeles. Each lesson in the program is divided into three parts. During the first, students view social commentary art on a theme, such as civic and social responsibility or education, and then after discussing it, they create tangible artwork.

Middle school educator Chris Saldivar said the youTHink program motivated his students to “think about the world in which they live and how they can be empowered to make a difference.”

Eulogies:Irwin M. Weinstein

Irwin M. Weinstein, one of the founders of the National Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) and its Los Angeles chapter, died July 21 of a stroke and kidney failure. He was 76.

Weinstein’s career included a clinical practice, academic medicine, civic and political activities, and he achieved international distinction as a clinical hematologist. He brought his vision of harnessing educational and scientific resources to conquer cancer with ICRF, which has spawned major breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer.

In Los Angeles, he served in a variety of positions at Cedars-Sinai, including chief of staff from 1972-1974 and a member of their board of governors. At UCLA he was a professor of clinical medicine and served on their medical school admissions committee.

Among his many national accolades, Weinstein was appointed adviser to the National Health Care Reform Task Force and was recommended by President Bill Clinton for assistant secretary of health for policy and evaluation.

The Beverly Hills resident was born in Denver, Colo., and received his medical degree from the University of Denver. He served his residency at Montefiore Hospital in New York and was a resident in medicine at the University of Chicago before coming to Southern California.

He is survived by his wife, Judy; sons, David and Jim (Cynthia); grandchildren, Julian and Mara; brother, Gerald; and brothers-in-law, David and Zev Braun.

Contributions may be made to the Israel Cancer Research Fund, 8383 Wilshire Blvd., No. 341, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. — ICRF

The Circuit

America’s Sweetheart

Erin Brockovich was the keynote speaker at the sixth Annual Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) “Women of Action” luncheon, which took place Aug. 8 at the Beverly Hilton.

ICRF honored five women of outstanding professional achievements and contributions to the community. Brockovich was joined on the dais by Hedva Amrani Danoff, renowned Israeli singer; Dr. Alexandra Levine, medical director of the USC/Norris Cancer Hospital; Superior Court Judge Marsha N. Revel; and Real Estate Commissioner Paula Reddish Zinnemann. Attorney Edward Masry, who worked with Brockovich to settle the popularized multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric, introduced his colleague. In her address, Brockovich spoke humorously about the accuracy of Julia Roberts’ sassy speech and attire in her Oscar-winning performance. However, her speech turned serious as she spoke about cancer. “The people of Hinkley, California, are my heroes. It was their suffering that had inspired me,” she said, referring to the cancer victims that she and Masry represented. Since the movie, Brockovich has been lecturing around the country at conferences and colleges about the cancer-causing effects of toxic contamination and her crusade for the triumph of the human spirit. Her book, “Take it From Me, Life’s a Struggle, But You Can Win” (McGraw-Hill) comes out this fall, and she will appear in a series of ABC specials. — Orit Arfa

Green Day

Israel Humanitarian Foundation (IHF) held its second annual California Golf Challenge on the greens of the Valencia Country Club. The event, one of three golf tournaments hosted nationwide each year by IHF (Miami, Fla., and Long Island, N.Y., are the others), grossed $40,000 for to help support Cure Autism Now and Israel’s Society for Autistic Children.

A Jolly Good Fellow

Bernard Shapiro, executive director of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, a Houston-based research facility and political action group, announced that local attorney, journalist and author Avi Davis will assume a position as the center’s senior fellow. Davis will be responsible for the development of a Los Angeles branch of the Freeman Center. The center, whose aim is to aid Israel in its survival in a hostile world, was founded by Shapiro in 1992. It has adopted an ambitious expansion plan that involves the establishment of branches in Los Angeles, New York and Israel.

Come Together

Every Sunday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., a small group of concerned Angelenos show up on the corner of Veteran and Wilshire boulevards in support for Israel. L.A. resident Suzanne Davidson planned the demonstrations, which began July 1.

“I had reached my limit on what I was reading in the newspapers,” she told The Circuit, “and the news was so biased against Israel. I have relatives in Israel who felt that they weren’t getting support.” Soft drinks, water and security are all provided.

From week to week, the group has grown from an initial dozen to about 30 people, including Russian and Cuban Jews. Davidson encourages more people to join her.

For more information, call Suzanne Davidson at (818) 395-0414.

Cartoon Networking

On the penultimate panel at the World Animation Festival, held Aug. 7-12, International Creative Management (ICM) animation voice-over agents Larry Hummel and Natanya Rose were among the industry names who gave aspiring vocal artists advice on the protocol of landing gigs on animated cartoons.

“If we’ve taken you on as a client, you have to represent us as well,” Rose said, touching on the importance of being professional. Asked how he broke into the business, the Long Island-raised Hummel replied, “I hopped into my ’73 Oldsmobile Centurion convertible and drove out to L.A. I don’t think anybody goes to their high school guidance counselor and says, ‘I want to be a voice-over casting agent when I get out.'”

Behind Door Number One

Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services raised more than $420,000 for abused and troubled youngsters at its 23rd Annual Sports Sweepstakes. More than 400 people attended the June 11 event at the Beverly Hills Hilton, chaired by Black Equities CEO Stanley Black. Attendees included astronaut Buzz Aldrin and former L.A. Laker Jamal Wilkes. Former “Let’s Make a Deal” host Monty Hall was recognized, at the banquet, for his humanitarian and philanthropy interests.

Uniting to Find a Cure

Bob Dole. General Norman Schwarzkopf. Harry Belafonte. Robert Goulet. The willingness of such well-known figures to make public their battle with prostate cancer has brought visibility to an issue that until the last few years, lacked the attention, funding and research interest befitting a disease that will strike more than 180,000 men in the United States this year.

Michael Milken, diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993, waged perhaps one of the most public battles against the disease, founding CaP CURE to accelerate the progress of prostate cancer research and treatment. Milken appointed his physician, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center urologist Stuart Holden, as medical director of CaP CURE, and the organization has distributed more than $120 million in research grants over the past eight years.

Milken was not Holden’s only high-profile patient. Last year, L.A. business leader Louis Warschaw was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Warschaw and his wife, Carmen, longtime supporters of Cedars-Sinai, decided, along with their family, to endow a chair for prostate cancer at the hospital. The couple founded a fundraising group and planned a black-tie gala to launch the project. Tragically, Louis’ prostate cancer accelerated so quickly that he died before he could see the dinner come to fruition. But Carmen, a force in Democratic politics, a former chair of The Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee and a patron of the arts, pursued the dream.

At a March 10 Skirball Cultural Center event underwritten by Metropolitan West Financial, Warschaw announced that the group had raised $3.1 million in two-and-a-half short months.

Since the event, more commitments have been received, bringing the total to almost $7 million, according to Warschaw. "It’s really been booming, and I’m just thrilled," she said. "We’ll continue to work with Cedars to raise money and awareness."

The funds will support Cedars-Sinai’s new Prostate Cancer Center, which opened last October with Holden as its medical director. Holden recruited as research director Dr. David B. Agus, who had attracted the attention of CaP CURE for his work analyzing the molecular changes that accelerate prostate tumor growth.

The Prostate Cancer Center aims not only to provide cutting-edge treatment for the disease, but to spur the development of new therapies for prostate cancer.

In the Prostate Cancer Center’s state-of-the-art laboratory, researchers perform translational research by testing experimental treatments on rats that have been injected or implanted with human prostate cancer tumors. The hospital will also conduct clinical trials of therapies that have already shown promise in the laboratory.

The Prostate Cancer Center’s model breaks with traditional research in that it encourages collaboration and sharing of data with other institutions, rather than the hoarding of information sometimes characteristic of the scientific community. With sophisticated equipment, doctors and researchers at Cedars-Sinai are hooked up to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, and the University of California at San Francisco, enabling teleconferencing and even the transmission of X-rays and slides from one location to another.

"We are not trying to recreate a UCLA or a Sloan-Kettering. We are trying to serve as a facilitator, to allow rapid development of therapeutics, wherever they are developed," says Agus.

In addition, the Prostate Cancer Center cooperates with pharmaceutical companies to test the effectiveness of potential new cancer therapies. Some frown on the approach of embracing this industry, but Holden sees it as an asset. "When we started inviting the biotechnology people to our conferences, people would say, ‘Oh my God.’ It has kind of a taint of commercialism. We didn’t see it [that way]. What happened was, the people that were working in industry started meeting the people who were working in academics, and they developed relationships."

The Skirball fundraising event certainly demonstrated an approach based on relationships. Entertainment was provided by Tracey Ullman, whose husband received care from Holden. And emcees Connie Chung and Maury Povich credited their involvement to their admiration for Agus, who happens to be their son-in-law.

Agus says an "explosion of data and technology" has made this an exciting time in cancer research. The sequencing of the human genome, together with the technology to use this data, he says, are "comparable to the significance of creation of the microprocessor for the computer science industry."

One promising direction, called gene chip analysis, enables doctors to genetically examine tumor tissue to see which genes are active, giving them what Holden calls "a molecular signature of an individual’s cancer."

"Cancer is not the same every time. One person’s cancer is dramatically different from another person’s cancer. Yet we can only treat them all the same," he says. Because most men will get prostate cancer if they live long enough, he says, the challenge is to determine whether an individual’s cancer is aggressive or slow-growing.

Certain hormones, like testosterone, fuel the growth of prostate cancer tumors, so treatments may involve measures designed to halt hormone production. But at critical stages in the disease’s progress, the tumor changes, so that it grows even in the absence of hormones. The goal, Holden explains, is to understand how this change occurs so that it can eventually be reversed or prevented.

He sees prevention as an exciting direction in prostate cancer research. "There’s a lot of evidence based on diet, nutrition and all of these areas that [indicates] these are tremendously important factors…. One of the beauties of these models [is that] we can take animals and feed them [a promising substance, such as] Vitamin E and see what happens to the tumors, and what things we can do to prevent them from occurring."

In the meantime, new treatments give patients more options than ever before. For example, Cedars now offers laparoscopic surgery for prostate cancer, although, Holden cautions, the still-experimental procedure is too new for doctors to know whether it truly yields fewer long-term side effects than conventional surgery. He suspects that, with time and technical advances, it will eventually prove to be a viable alternative. Another novel procedure now in clinical trials, ablation therapy, uses heat to destroy prostate tumors. Still other procedures utilize cryogenics (freezing) and microwave technology.

Fittingly, as someone committed to collaborative endeavors, Holden uses baseball rather than battle as an analogy to describe currently available prostate cancer treatments. "I don’t think any of them is a home run at this point, but there’s lots of singles. I just say we’ve got a lot of men on base. And that’s good. Because in the beginning, we didn’t have anyone in the batter’s box."

Weathering the Crisis

City of Hope is the largest provider of bonemarrow transplantation services in California. Here Dr. Stephen J.Forman attends to a patient.

The City of Hope, the esteemed charity, cancerhospital and research center, is under attack. But supporters of thecharity, whose roots run deep into the Jewish community, are comingto its defense.

Last month, the Los Angeles Times and the PasadenaStar News published reports that revealed a conflict which has beensimmering behind the scenes at City of Hope for three years.

In 1995, the charity paid settlements to threewomen who had accused then-COH president, Dr. Sanford Shapero, ofsexual misconduct, City of Hope general counsel Glenn Krinsky toldThe Jewish Journal. An initial investigation found that Shapero andan associate had demonstrated “poor judgment” but “did not establishthe existence of a sexually hostile work environment,” a City of Hopeleader wrote to Shapero. However, during a second investigation,Shapero and the associate were informed that their jobs could be onthe line, Krinsky said.

Thus began a battle that now involves the FBI andthe state attorney general’s office.

According to an FBI search-warrant affidavit,dated Jan. 29, the bureau is investigating Shapero and two associatesfor engaging “in a conspiracy to extort money from COH” bythreatening to harm its reputation and donor base.

But Shapero, a 68-year-old rabbi who once workedat Temple Emanuel, “unequivocally denies he ever made such threats,”said his attorney, Frank Nemecek. Shapero strongly denies theallegations of sexual misconduct and insists that he never tried toextort money from the City of Hope, Nemecek added.

The rabbi believes that he is the victim of a”vendetta” for his 1995 hiring of an independent company, the FairfaxGroup, to investigate possible financial improprieties at the City ofHope, the attorney said.

The alleged improprieties, in turn, have promptedthe state attorney general’s office to investigate the City of Hope.”If a credible person brings us information about something impropergoing on at a charitable trust, we will look into the matter, thoughthat does not imply any wrongdoing,” said Wayne Smith, chief ofstaff, state attorney general’s office. Smith declined to discussdetails of the case.

Krinsky, however, said that the allegationsagainst City of Hope are false. He pointed out that an arbitrationjudge cited “serious questions about Shapero’s credibility,” in courtdocuments. The judge wrote that “Shapero’s motive in retainingFairfax Group” was to uncover misconduct “that could be used asleverage in his…ongoing war with City of Hope.”

Another arbitration judge ruled that Shaperoviolated the terms of his settlement package upon leaving City ofHope. The rabbi was ordered to pay $1.3 million as “compensatorydamages” for legal and other fees incurred in the charity’s “attemptto respond to the allegations made to national and localmedia.”

For example, City of Hope had to convince “60Minutes” that the allegations against it were untrue, Krinskysaid.

On March 10, a Superior Court judge confirmed thearbitration award against Shapero. Nemecek says Shapero will appealthe Judge’s order with the California Court of Appeals.

Steven Solton, COH’s chief development officer,said that he expected “hundreds” of donors to contact his officeafter the newspaper articles ran last month. Krinsky expected to bedeluged by calls from the press. But only a dozen people telephoned,and all were supportive, the officials said. There also haven’t beenany complaints from the more than 350 auxiliary chapter presidentsthroughout the United States. All of them received a Feb. 18 letterthat stated COH’s point of view.

“Let’s say you have a good friend, someone withintegrity. If someone says something derogatory about them, you’renot going to ingest the negative information,” said Claire L.Rothman, chair of the medical center board.

Dr. Stephen Forman, COH’s physician-in-chief, saidthat he insulated his staff from the legal battles. “No one was everdistracted by this,” he told The Journal.

More than two years after Shapero’s departure,officials insist, COH is stronger than ever. Since 1995, researchgrants have almost doubled, from $13 million to $25 million, Soltonsaid. Fund raising, which covers one-quarter of COH’s annual $250million budget, has increased from $47 million in 1994 to $59 millionlast year. During the past 24 months, 33 new physicians andscientists have joined the staff from illustrious institutions, suchas Harvard Medical School. And, last year, COH opened four newbuildings on the pastoral campus, including an outpatient center thataccommodates 204,000 patient visits per year.

The story of the City of Hope began one day in1912, when a young Jewish tailor fell dead of tuberculosis in frontof his walk-up residence at 12th Street and Central Avenuedowntown.

Thereafter, a dozen people, principally Jewishémigrés and garment workers, traversed theneighborhood, clutching the four corners of an American flag asneighbors pitched in their pennies, nickels and dimes. The changepaid for the young man’s funeral; it was also the birth of amovement. Ailing East Coast sweatshop workers were fleeing toCalifornia, only to find that many TB sanitariums refused to admitJews.

The first City of Hope patients treated fortuberculosis were housed in one tent, with a nurse in the other, on10 acres purchased by volunteers. Below, The Spirit of Life Fountain,representing the hospital’s philosophy.

And, so, the Los Angeles Jews took up the call tofight the “white plague.” By January 1914, their nickels and dimeshad purchased 10 acres of land in Duarte, at the foot of the SanGabriel Mountains. There, the Jewish Consumptive Relief Associationbegan with two tents, two patients and a nurse.

When TB was eradicated with the advent ofantibiotics in the 1940s, the charity began tackling another deadlydisease: cancer. Today, City of Hope, comprising a 110-acre campusthat features a Japanese garden, is one of the most important cancerhospitals and research centers in the world.

Although COH is now nonsectarian, 70 percent ofits donor base remains Jewish. There are some 2,500 employees,including more than 250 physicians and scientists, “a significantpercentage of them Jewish,” Forman said. COH is known formanufacturing the first synthetic insulin, as well as for itsresearch in cancer genetics and cutting-edge treatments for leukemia,breast cancer and other diseases.


COH is also known as California’s largest privateprovider of free and subsidized medical care, Krinsky said.”Twenty-eight percent of all money spent on medical care helpsindigent patients, which is an integral part of our mission,” saidCharles M. Balch, City of Hope’s president and CEO. But finding waysto pay for the care remains a struggle in this competitive hospitalera, Balch added.

That is why some of COH’s supporters are worryingabout the recent negative publicity. “The possible alienation of anysector of our support is of tremendous concern,” said Ben Horowitz, adefining City of Hope past president and CEO.

In fact, the charity may have lost a $50 millionhospital endowment, in part, because of the allegations, Krinskysaid. And one 35-year board member, Percy Solotoy, resigned over theway, he perceived, COH was mistreating Shapero. “I can’t understandthe viciousness with which [he] is being pursued,” Solotoy told TheJournal. “That runs counter to City of Hope’s philosophy…. Dr.Shapero and I had a very close relationship, and I don’t believe hecould have engaged in criminal acts.”

Three others, including a COH donor, phoned TheJournal to express support for Shapero.

City of Hope supporters say that the charity ismerely defending itself from harmful attacks; Pat Perrott, a majordonor, says what is at stake is the welfare of people such as herson, Matthew Phelan.

Seven years ago, Phelan, then 30, was diagnosedwith an aggressive form of lymphoma. After 14 unsuccessful months ofradiation and chemotherapy, a bone-marrow transplant at the City ofHope was his last hope, Perrott said. When he first entered thehospital, he weighed little more than 100 pounds and shivered underhis heavy coat, despite the August heat, his mother recalled.

But the transplant worked, and, last April, Phelanand six fellow patients were pronounced cured. Perrott threw them ahuge, celebratory bash, inviting all the doctors and nurses who hadtreated them at the hospital.

“I feel angry that anyone would try to denigratethe City of Hope,” Perrott told The Journal. “The work they do is tooimportant. They keep families whole.”