Prof. Isaac P. Witz to to receive the 2023 Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research
The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) announced that Prof. Isaac P. Witz, Ph.D., has been selected to receive the 2023 Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research
Professor Isaac P. Witz, a distinguished figure in cancer research, has been selected by the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) prize selection committee for his groundbreaking scientific contributions. His work has shed light on the crucial role of information flow and signaling between tumor cells and the tumor microenvironment (TME) in understanding tumor growth and metastasis. In recognition of his achievements, Professor Witz will receive the prestigious Szent-Györgyi Prize at an award ceremony scheduled for October 21, 2023, at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
With an outstanding career spanning over fifty years, Professor Witz currently serves as Professor Emeritus at Tel Aviv University and heads the Laboratory of Tumor Microenvironment & Metastasis Research at The Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences. Throughout his career, he has made significant contributions through breakthrough observations, discoveries, publications, and collaborative efforts, emphasizing the critical role of the TME in cancer cell biology, growth, and metastasis.
During the early stages of his scientific journey in the 1960s, Professor Witz pioneered the experimental demonstration that components of the immune system infiltrate the TME, exerting an impact on tumor behavior. His research established that humoral immune factors localized in the TME not only influence tumor growth but are also essential for effective cellular anti-tumor immune responses. These seminal findings laid the groundwork for certain aspects of contemporary immunotherapy, ultimately benefiting cancer patients and advancing scientific progress towards finding cancer cures.
Professor Witz's most significant scientific achievements were realized from the 1970s through the 1990s, a time when cancer research predominantly focused on the cancer cell itself. Challenging the prevailing reductionist viewpoint, which attributed carcinogenesis and cancer progression solely to oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes within cancer cells, his pioneering work demonstrated that microenvironmental factors play a crucial role in determining aggressive tumor behavior.
Despite encountering skepticism, Professor Witz revolutionized the approach to cancer research, shifting the emphasis from reductionism to a more holistic perspective. His extensive body of work, including studies on the interaction between tumors and the TME and the organization of global conferences, sparked a paradigm shift, redirecting attention to the TME and tumor-host interactions as pivotal factors in tumor biology.
Rakesh K. Jain, Ph.D., Chair of the 2023 Selection Committee and the 2022 Prize recipient, expressed his delight at Professor Witz's selection, highlighting the impact of his work on the development of cancer therapeutics targeting molecules within the TME. Dr. Jain, whose own research encompasses the field of TME, believes that future opportunities for life-saving therapies will continue to emerge from this area of study.
Sujuan Ba, Ph.D., co-Chair of the Selection Committee and President and CEO of NFCR, lauded Professor Isaac Witz as the "father of the tumor microenvironment." She emphasized that his decades of relentless work have brought about a paradigm shift in cancer research, benefiting both patients and the field as a whole. Dr. Ba also noted the significance of Professor Witz receiving the Szent-Györgyi Prize during NFCR's 50th-anniversary celebration on October 21st, 2023.
Professor Isaac Witz expressed his profound satisfaction, stating: "I am filled with immense gratification knowing that my contributions have shaped the current understanding of the TME field and laid the foundation for life-saving immunotherapies for patients. It is an absolute honor, and I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude towards the 2023 Szent-Györgyi Prize Selection Committee for bestowing upon me this prestigious recognition, allowing me to stand alongside the esteemed previous recipients of the Szent-Györgyi Prize."