ICA marks half a century of activism

Cancer association has seen chances to recover rise 30 percent.

By
October 25, 2011 01:39
4 minute read.
Israel Cancer Association

ICA 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Marking half a century of work to fight the more than 100 types of malignant diseases, the Israel Cancer Association noted that the chances for recovery have risen during this period from 30 percent to 60%.

Thanks to earlier detection and better medical technologies such as radiation, immunological drugs and chemotherapy at the disposal of oncologists and surgeons, more patients recover or survive more years.

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At a press conference to mark the launching of its 51st Knock on the Door Campaign to be held on Monday, October 31, ICA officials noted that in general, cancer deaths are declining, but in certain populations such as Arab men and women and certain types of diseases, they are increasing.

Cancer survival is higher than ever in children, with 80% living at least five years after diagnosis (compared to 50% in the 1970s) and 75% surviving for a decade or more.

In men, there was a decline in mortality rates between 1999 and 2008 of the five most common cancers colorectal, 27% less; prostate (31%); stomach (31%); lung (5%) and pancreas (1%). At the same time, there is an increase of cancer mortality in Arab men colorectal, 17% more; stomach (20%); lung (7.4%); and pancreas (1.3%).

In women, there has been a decline in mortality from the two most common type of cancers in Israel, breast, 22.5% less, ovarian (3.3%) and colorectal (30%) but a nearly 11% increase in pancreatic, 5.8% in lung.

Prostate, lung, colorectal, bladder and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma constituted over half of all new cancers in men, while breast, colorectal, lung, thyroid and uterine cancer were over half of those in women.

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The general decline in cancer cases may be due to technologies that detect pre-cancerous lesions in time and improved lifestyle in some Israelis, but too many remain sedentary and do not eat nutritious food.

Also at the event, President Shimon Peres, ICA Chairman Prof. Eliezer Robinson and ICA Director-General Miri Ziv all paid tribute to ICA founding president Suzy Eban, who died last month at the age of 90.

Peres lauded Eban’s long standing commitment to the ICA.

In the course of his speech, Peres declared that all citizens of Israel must be guaranteed equal access to preventive medicine and to life-saving drugs regardless of age, religion or race. He exhorted Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, also present, that “cost should not be a factor when saving lives is at stake.”

Israel Prize recipient Prof. Alexander Levitzki, who has received many international awards for his work in cancer research and discoveries, bemoaned the fact that unlike the US, Israel does not have a specific cancer research institute, nor does cancer research in Israel benefit from government support.

The only organization that is totally dedicated to researching, preventing, detecting and treating cancer is the ICA, he said, adding that in view of ever-increasing cancer statistics, and the many kinds of cancers that exist, it was time for the government to establish a cancer research institute.

Litzman did not exactly concur, but said that the entire world should invest as much in cancer research as is invested in aerospace research – especially as more people are affected by cancer than by what goes on in outer space.

The chairman of this year’s fundraising campaign for the ICA is Hubert Leven, president of the Rashi Foundation since 1984, who was invited by association deputy chairman Leon Recanati to fill the post.

“I accepted without hesitation, in deep awareness of the vital need to fight continuously this terrible illness,” said Leven, who was first diagnosed with cancer 51 years ago and was thought to have a maximum life expectancy of four more years.

“Advanced medical research is struggling constantly with the complex and tricky nature of cancer. Recent research has saved the lives of many children and adults, or at least extended them significantly. Were it not for the effective results obtained by so many research teams throughout the world, I would not have the privilege of being here today,” he said.

“Not only am I still here today but I have since had two other non-related cancers for which I am also on remission. So yes, investing in cancer research and prevention does produce life-changing results and this is essentially why I so readily accepted this mission,” said Leven.

For the last 10 years, the Rashi Foundation has offered a special summer camp at the Nitzana Youth Village for children coping with cancer, in partnership with the Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba.

The foundation is giving a gift of NIS 1 million for the Knock on the Door Campaign, in which schoolchildren will visit homes around the country.

The Rashi Foundation grant will be designated for widescale activity among youth, aiming to promote a healthy lifestyle and prevent cancer.

“We believe that education towards a healthy way of life and increased awareness among the young generation can help to defeat the illness and stop it from spreading,” Leven said.

A mobile education unit sponsored by Rashi and the Israel Cancer Association will visit schools throughout the country, with special emphasis on schools in the geographic and social periphery of Israel.

The ICA’s activities include the funding of cancer research; information and education; building national programs for early detection; supporting poor cancer patients; helping children to keep up with their studies during treatments; paying salaries to nurses, social workers, dietitians and others who help cancer patients in hospitals and the community; and helping patients to use their rights.

Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.

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