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From photosynthesis to cancer therapy


Date: October 16, 2018
Weizmann Magazine Volume 14
Prof. Avigdor Scherz

Prof. Avigdor Scherz

The Weizmann Institute hosted a conference in May in honor of Prof. Avigdor Scherz’s 70th birthday, highlighting the plant scientist’s revolutionary work with the late Prof. Yoram Salomon that applied insights in photosynthesis to cancer therapy. The scientists’ research led to the development of Tookad® Vascular-Targeted Photodynamic therapy (VTP), an anti-cancer drug that is activated at the site of a tumor through exposure to a certain wavelength of laser light.

The therapy has been approved in Mexico and Europe for the treatment of prostate cancer and is in clinical trials for a handful of other cancer types at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Also in attendance was Alan Siegel of the Thompson Family Foundation, which sponsors Prof. Scherz’s research and is also supporting an extensive collaboration between Sloan Kettering and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.

Prof. Scherz, of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences is now working on combining Tookad®-based treatment with immune modulation, with the goal of counteracting errant immune system activity that protects malignant tumors and promotes cancer progress.

Prof. Avigdor Scherz is supported by the Lotte S. and Felix Bilgrey Memorial Fund, the Berdie and Irvin Cohen Weizmann Institute Research Fund, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Samuil and Petr Polsky Prostate Cancer Research Fund, Lord and Lady Sharp of Grimsdyke, Jerome and Edna Shostak, the Thompson Family Foundation, and Sharon Zuckerman.