U.S. cancer research group lauds Israeli scientist Alexander Levitzki

Alexander Levitzki of Hebrew University was named the recipient of the 2013 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Chemical Research.

The prestigious award was presented Tuesday by The American Association for Cancer Research. Levitzki also delivered a lecture to the association.

Levitzki, a professor of biological chemistry at the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, received the honor “in recognition of his contributions to signal transduction therapy and his work on the development of tyrosine kinase inhibitors as effective agents against cancer,” according to the association.

The Israeli scientist has won numerous other prominent awards, including the Israel Prize in biochemistry and the Nauta Award in Pharmacochemistry, the highest award from the European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry.

Jewish doctor from New York co-recipient of Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Robert J. Lefkowitz, a Jewish physician and path-breaking biochemist from New York, has won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Brian K. Kobilka, a researcher at California’s Stanford University.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 went to the scientists for “groundbreaking discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family … of receptors: G-protein–coupled receptors,” an Oct. 10 posting on the website of the Nobel Prize stated. Understanding how these receptors function helped further explain how cells could sense their environment, according to the text.

Lefkowitz –- who works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute of Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina — and Kobilka worked together to isolate and analyze a gene which led them to discover that “the receptor was similar to one in the eye that captures light. They realized that there is a whole family of receptors that look alike and function in the same manner,” the Nobel Prize website said.

Lefkowitz, 61, and Kobilka, 57, will share a $1.2 million grant from the Nobel Prize Committee.

On Oct. 9. The Nobel Prize Committee in Stockholm announced that Serge Haroche, a French-Jewish physicist, had won the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with David Wineland from the United States. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011 went to Dan Shechtman of Israel’s Technion.

In 2008, Lefkowitz received the US National Medal of Science. The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles reported at the time that he was one of three American-Jewish recipients that year of the nation's highest honor in science and technology.

In an interview with Emily Harris which appeared this summer on the website of Duke University, Lefkowitz is quoted as saying: “I was clearly destined to be a physician, I dreamed about it from the third grade on. Wouldn’t trade that part of my experience in for anything. I LOVED medical school.” He also said: “I do regret that my dad died thinking I would be a practicing cardiologist, never dreaming what the future held for me.”

Lefkowitz's father, who died at the age of 63, “never got to see any of this play out,” Lefkowitz said.

Israeli among 4 Jewish scientists to win Nobels

An Israeli scientist won the 2011 Nobel Prize for chemistry, and Jewish scientists also took prizes in physics and medicine.

Daniel Shechtman, 70, a distinguished professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, was announced as a Nobel winner on Wednesday for his discovery of quasicrystals, mosaics of atoms that form regular patterns that never repeat themselves.

Shechtman, who receives $1.5 million for winning the prize, also is an associate at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and a professor at Iowa State University.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Shechtman’s 1982 discovery of quasicrystals changed the way chemists look at solid matter. His discovery had been rejected initially by the scientific community and caused him to be kicked out of his research group.

“I would like to congratulate you, on behalf of the citizens of Israel, for your award, which expresses the intellect of our people,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Shechtman in a congratulatory phone call. “Every Israeli is happy today and every Jew in the world is proud.”

Saul Perlmutter, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, was among three U.S.-born scientists who won the Nobel Prize in physics announced Tuesday. Perlmutter received the prize for his study of exploding stars that showed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. He will receive a “coveted” lifetime parking permit on campus in honor of his prize, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Ralph Steinman and Bruce Beutler were named as Nobel Prize winners for medicine on Monday for discoveries on the immune system. Half of the prize money was awarded to Steinman, with the other half to be split between Beutler and biologist Jules Hoffmann. Israel National News reported that Steinman and Beutler are Jewish.

Steinman will receive the prize posthumously; he died three days before the Nobel committee made the announcement. Though he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four years ago, Steinman was able to prolong his life by using new dendritic cell-based immunotherapy—the same discovery for which he was awarded the prize.

Only living scientists typically are considered by the Nobel committee, but because its members were unaware of Steinman’s death when the winning names were released, no substitution winner will be announced.

No Deposit, No Return

Five Jews Nab Nobel Science Wins

When David J. Gross, a winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in physics, was asked whether he was Jewish, he told a reporter, “What do you think? Of course!”

The same affirmative answer applied to five out of six 2004 science Nobel Laureates. Two are Israelis, three are Americans — all from Southern California universities — and two of these Americans have close ties to Israel.

The Israeli winners, Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover of the Technion in Haifa, shared the $1.35 million prize in chemistry with Irwin A. Rose, professor emeritus at UC Irvine.

They were recognized for their research on the regulatory process taking place inside human cells, a discovery leading to the development of drugs against cancer and degenerative diseases.

“The practical applications are too numerous to mention,” said Rose, generally addressed as Ernie, who was quick to give major credit for the prize-winning work to Hershko.

In the typical research collaboration between professors and their graduate students, Rose became Hershko’s doctoral thesis adviser when he spent part of his 1972 sabbatical year at Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center.

“I took my wife, four children and mother-in-law and we settled in Jerusalem,” he said.

Ciechanover, in turn, became Hershko’s graduate student and over the next 19 years, the two Israelis spent the summers at Rose’s lab at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

Ciechanover is director of the David and Janet Polak Center for Cancr Research and Vascular Biology, a project of the Southern California chapter of the American Technion Society.

The two Technion researchers are the first Israelis to receive Nobel Prizes in a scientific discipline and their work has been supported for many years by the New York-based Israel Cancer Research Fund.

Jubilant Israelis liked the Nobel award to the Olympic gold medal won by Israeli windsurfer Gal Friedman. The prize was also seen as a telling answer to some European academicians who have called for a boycott of Israeli scholars.

Rose was born in Brooklyn, attended Hebrew school, but became a “confirmed secularist” at age 10. Now 78, he and his wife live in Leisure World in Orange County, are active in the retirement community’s Concerned Citizens group and express their Jewish identity mainly through their ties with Israel, he said.

For the Nobel prize in physics, Gross, director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UC Santa Barbara, shared the award with professor H. David Politzer of Caltech and professor Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Nobel Foundation recognized their development of quantum chromodynamics, the study of the mysterious “strong force” that holds the nuclei of the atom together, even as the protein’s electrical charges try to blow them apart.

The development is seen by many scientists as a major step toward a “Theory of Everything” — a single set of equations to explain all phenomena from the force holding atoms together to the gravitational fields that hold planets in orbit.

Colleagues confirmed that Politzer is Jewish, but he did not respond to an interview request, and former Los Angeles Times science editor Irving Bengelsdorf described the Caltech physicist as unusually shy and sensitive.

Politzer affirmed this description by refusing to attend a press conference in his honor, despite the pleading of Caltech President David Baltimore.

Gross, who previously taught at Princeton, was more outgoing. As a teenager and young man, he lived for eight years in Israel, while his father served as economic adviser to the government and founded the business administration school at the Hebrew University.

The younger Gross received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Hebrew University.

“For one day, until Hershko’s and Ciechanover’s award was announced, I was considered the first ‘Israeli’ scientist to have won a Nobel Prize,” Gross said.

For five years, he directed the Jerusalem Winter School at the Hebrew University’s Institute for Advanced Studies and will be back in Israel in April to participate in a symposium on Albert Einstein.

The figure for the total number of Jewish Nobelists varies slightly, depending on the strictness of the “Who’s a Jew?” definition. But the figure cited most frequently is 161, or 22 percent of Nobel Prizes in all categories awarded between 1901-2003. With the 2004 additions, the total apparently stands at 166.

Un-Orthodox Date

What nice Jewish girl hasn’t heard this from her mother: “You should meet a nice Jewish boy!”

My mom was no different.

She would constantly urge me, “Go to synagogue. A Jewish mixer. Or a Shabbat dinner. That’s where you’ll meet lots of nice Jewish men.”

But I never cared for organized events. I prefer to meet my men through more everyday-casual-maybe-it-will-happen situations, which is how I met Carl.

I had been hearing about Carl Cohen for years. He was sort of a mystery man that women always seemed to talk about. Frequently, at parties or events his name would pop up in conversation. I had never seen or met Carl, but I was totally jealous whenever I would hear that someone else was going out with him, even though he was just a name.

Then, one night at an art reception, I saw this good-looking man across the room. As he walked toward me, my eyes zoomed in on his name tag — Carl Cohen.

Our eyes met — sparks flew. Sure, he had a date clinging to his arm, but I could see they had no chemistry. We had chemistry.

I think his date noticed. As Carl and I began to discuss the nuances of art — abstract vs. representational, modernism vs. surrealism; Dadaism vs. pointillism and how the paintings in this particular collection would look better hung upside down — the overzealous blonde glued to his side whined that they had a dinner reservation. (“We should have been at Spago 15 minutes ago.”)

She dragged him away and out the door. But I knew he wanted me. I simply had to find him again.

During the next week, I asked around. Some of my friends knew who he was, but no one had his phone number.

Then fate intervened. I ran into an old girlfriend of mine who had taken a Jewish studies class with Carl. She told me that Carl was active in the synagogue, and to get his number, I should call his rabbi, so I did.

The rabbi gave me his number, and I called Carl. He instantly knew who I was. And he was thrilled to hear from me. He asked me out immediately,

“Dinner Tuesday night?” I was excited. This was it.

Now, I am not a religious woman. But the signs were clear. A rabbi had put us together.

Such a beginning. Carl was it. No doubt. The match was blessed. (It would be a Jewish wedding. His rabbi would preside.)

Wrong! The ominous signs came even before our first date.

“Honey. Sweetie.” Yes, that’s how Carl referred to me during our second phone conversation. I hardly knew this man. But I was already honey and sweetie. I let it pass.

On our dinner date, there were no great bolts of electricity. Still, he was smart and cute — and a doctor! I’d give it time.

Back at my house, Carl started telling me about his Jewish studies class. It was an Orthodox singles group. Predominantly women.

“Of course,” I said. “They all go there to meet a nice single Jewish man like you.”

“Oh, no,” he replied. “They’re very serious about Jewish culture and tradition. They’re there to learn, not to date.”

“Oh? So you haven’t gone out with any of them?” I asked.

“Well, yeah — uh, maybe a few.” He thought for a moment, silently counting. “Actually, five, no 10. But I would never even hold hands with someone I met in the class. You have to respect these women. A man can’t touch a woman until they’re married. It’s Orthodox custom — you must have respect.”

At which point, Carl leaned over and pounced on me. I emphasize pounce. He started kissing me — open mouth — with lots of tongue. (I felt like a war-torn Middle Eastern country — attacked and invaded!)

To be perfectly honest, Carl wasn’t a bad kisser. It’s just I wasn’t ready for a night of tongue sandwiches — especially not after he’d told me about all those women he respected and wouldn’t even hold hands with.

I pushed him away.

“C’mon honey,” he urged. “We’ll have a good time. I like you, sweetie.”

He lunged for my body. I lunged for his coat — and pointed him to the door!

After he left, I thought back to my mother again, and what she’d taught me when I first started dating — the man and the cow and the free milk, etc.

Did Carl consider the girls in his Jewish studies class the cows, and was I the milkmaid? That didn’t seem kosher to me. And I should know. Even if my last name is Anderson, I’m a nice Jewish girl, too.

But what if Carl was just using me for “practice?” Well, no thanks, “sweetie” “honey” “sugarpie Carl.” Because, guess what? I don’t want to be the rehearsal, I want to be the main event.

So much for divine intervention. Maybe my mother had been right all along. The next week, I joined a synagogue. I went to a Jewish mixer. And even a Shabbat dinner. Which is where I met lots of nice single Jewish women — who all had gone out with Carl Cohen!

Marilyn Anderson is a screenwriter, TV
writer and author of “Never Kiss a Frog: A Girl’s Guide to Creatures from the
Dating Swamp” (Red Rock Press, 2003). Her Web site is Frogerella@neverkissafrog.com

Red Flag From Cupid

Oh, sure, it started promisingly enough. Rhonda and I had each seen the other’s photo and profile on a singles Web site, granted one another profile approval and were now talking on the phone for the first time.

Things were going pleasantly until Rhonda suggested that I choose a place for us to meet. I suggested a coffeehouse with outdoor tables at The Grove. She reacted unimpressed. I then mentioned a charming little place on Melrose Avenue with a Japanese tea garden in the back. She yawned. Finally, I offered a second Melrose locale — a quaint French cafe with outdoor porch seating and fabulous homemade desserts. The silence was deafening.

“Problem?” I inquired.

“Those places just aren’t very romantic,” she informed me.

Not very romantic? I was stunned. Did I miss something here? Is it our anniversary? It’s our first meeting, for crying out loud! We don’t even know if we have any in-person chemistry. I told Rhonda that, to me, any “romance” occurs as a function of the chemistry between the two people. And that chemistry happens (or doesn’t) whether the people are meeting at the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Ritz in Paris, or at Taco Bell in Pacoima. She mumbled an unconvinced, “I guess so,” told me she was on her cell phone in the car, about to park in her garage and would call me back as soon as she got in the house. I never heard back from her.

I briefly envisioned how I might have salvaged this particular relationship. A romantic gondola ride in the Venice canals, with me feeding her grapes while comparing the texture of her skin to velvet? But if it turned out there was no or very little chemistry, as is often the case, we’d merely be two people in a romantic setting, eager for the date to end. I just didn’t get it. What was she thinking?

And then it occurred to me that this whole episode with Rhonda had been a gift to me from Cupid. You see, sometimes Cupid allows weeks, months, even years to go by before your romantic partner reveals his or her dark side. The longer it takes for the reveal, the harder and more painful its effects on you when it all comes crashing down.

Other times, as with Rhonda, Cupid is kinder and allows the red flags to reveal themselves right from the start. So you’re privy to your partner’s deepest dysfunctions early on, in the harsh morning light of her true self. Her high-maintenance, humorless, judgmental, controlling, quick-tempered, dull, deceitful, insecure aspects rear their ugly heads. And at that point, you can decide if all her other wonderful qualities make up for this — or if you would be far better off heading for the hills.

What fascinates me about all this is that these red flags are revealed despite their owner’s intentions of putting a best foot forward during those first few all-important, making-a-good-impression encounters. Sometimes, thankfully, their true colors can’t help but slip through as merciful little advance relationship warnings (“The Crazies are coming! The Crazies are coming!”) thereby saving you all that time, money, effort and emotional involvement (and subsequent hurt) for however long you might have become involved with them before the bad stuff surfaced.

Therefore, I thank you, Rhonda. You did me a favor, and I wish you nothing but the best. I sincerely hope you meet that guy who will be able to suggest a first-date locale sufficiently romantic for your deepest needs and desires. All I ask is that once you’re seated with him at that charming seaside bistro on the French Riviera, with doves circling gently overhead and a strolling violinist playing “La Vie en Rose,” you’ll think of me kindly and wish me luck in my attempt to drum up a modicum of romance in some desolate Starbucks in Culver City.

Mark Miller is a comedy writer who has written for TV, movies and many celebrities, been a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, contributed to numerous national publications and produced a weekly comedic relationships feature for America Online. He can be reached at markmiller2000@attbi.com.

Living Through Chemistry

The ancient rabbis practiced a relatively simple form of medicine: cabbage for sustenance, beets for healing.

It was easier then to prescribe, although harder to heal.

"Woe to the house through which vegetables are always passing," sums up the Talmud. There were no guarantees then as to what would work, the red or the green. This week, amid the controversy surrounding hormone replacement therapy, I’ve wondered how far past cabbages we’ve come.

When I first began taking the tiny pink estrogen/progestin mix, my doctor at the time assured me that it was safe.

"Would you take the pills yourself?" I asked.


But she was more than 10 years my junior, and her certainty had a distant ring, a bell that won’t soon toll for thee. I never confused her with God. If I continue to take the pill, it’s not because I don’t think yams might work as well. I trust western medicine, and I hate hysteria. I’ve been down this road before.

I’m a baby boomer, particularly blessed by an outpouring of biochemical industry that did indeed bring us better living through chemistry. Capsules, tablets and curatives of all kinds have graced my every life-cycle advance, should I want them. There are drugs developed for just about every condition that drove women of the past crazy — literally. If we feminist women have, at times, felt like guinea pigs, we have also been pioneers.

As for the hormone study, it showed only that the risks were slightly higher, not that the drug is unsafe. I’m not acting until I have a better grip on what I’m doing.

But if I want a grip, I get no help from the media, which is playing "blame the victim." Both Time and Newsweek, among others, were quick to suggest that hormone replacement was a silly dream to stop aging or otherwise "preserve their youth."

How wrong can you get? The press reacted as if menopause was mere vanity, another form of Botox. But medicine’s purpose has always been one part palliative, to comfort and relief of symptoms, even where there is no cure. And if there’s selfishness to hormone replacement, what does this tell us about Viagra?

Aging is hardly the big news of the hormone study. Lesson No. 1 is the need for a vigilant medical community. The National Institute of Health waited years before recognizing that previous data on hormone replacement was based on faulty premises. In Tuesday’s New York Times, Dr. Susan Love wrote, "We need to demand medicine based on solid evidence, not hunches or wishful thinking."

Especially in preventive medicine, it is important to take "the time to determine the safety and efficacy of a particular therapy before we embrace it." In other words, doctors, heal yourselves.

Lesson No. 2 is, if anything, equally important: that presented with difficult medical situations, patients must, against great pressure, think for themselves.

My hunch is that many of us are ready for this step. Mine is the first generation to take birth control pills. They gave us free love and arguably a better image, but also mood swings, not to mention five extra pounds. We determined that the side effects were worth it.

Once married, we took fertility drugs, which gave us yet more mood swings, not to mention teaching us more than we wanted to know about the population density of sperm. There, too, the costs were deemed worthwhile.

And then came menopause. In my own little group, there are women who take half the recommended dose of estrogen, every other day; others eat yams. Some took estrogen until halted by a family member who got breast cancer; others, who take no hormone replacement, work on their bone density with drugs like Fosamax.

Independent thinking is the key lesson for an aging population. One of the most difficult transitions I’ve made since receiving a diagnosis of lung cancer is that there is no right answer. There is no medical god in whom to put my faith. There are only doctors with alternative theories, and some of them make sense. The Internet guides me from step to step, defining the next level of confusion, so the right treatment can work its way.

Scientists promised better living through chemistry. What they deliver isn’t perfect, but it beats cabbage and beets.