BEER-SHEVA, ISRAEL, August 9, 2010 Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) Professor Ron N. Apte has been awarded the 2010 Samuel and Paula Elkeles Prize for Outstanding Scientist in the Field of Medicine.
Professor Apte is chairman of the Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology and Immunology and vice dean of the Basic Sciences division in the BGU Faculty of Health Sciences. He is also the Irving Sklar Chair in Endocrinology and Cancer and a member of the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev.
Apte's major field of research involves inflammation in malignant processes. Approximately 15 percent of cancers are connected to inflammation, which typically result in organs where chronic inflammation has occurred. For example, patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are more prone to cancer than the general population.
The pioneering studies of Apte's group demonstrated the feasibility of intervening in malignant process by neutralizing inflammatory components in the "normal" microenvironment of a tumor. They also detailed the basic concepts underlying such treatment.
Inflammatory cells affect proliferation and invasiveness of malignant cells through the secretion of cytokines, which include Interleukin-1 (IL-1), the molecule that has been studied for years by Apte's group. The group has demonstrated the involvement of IL-1-mediated inflammation in tumor invasiveness and metastasis. IL-1 causes tumor expansion because it suppresses the immune system and nourishes a tumor's blood vessels. Apte's group treated tumor-bearing mice with a specific inhibitor of IL-1, known as the IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-Ra), and succeeded in weakening the tumor's invasiveness.
IL-Ra, in its generic form Anakirna, is a medication that efficiently alleviates symptoms of patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease.
Apte joined the BGU Faculty of Sciences in 1981 and has served two full terms as vice dean, as the vice dean of Student Affairs, and as the vice dean for Graduate Studies. Since 2008, he has been the vice dean for Basic Science Affairs.
Apte has been a member of the board of the European Cytokine Society since 1989 and has served on the board of its journal, "The European Cytokine Network". He was also president of the Israel Immunological Society from 1996 to 1998.
Apte has served as a charter member of the International Cancer Microenvironment Society (ICMS) and as an editorial board member of its journal "Cancer Microenvironment". Prof. Apte has published more than 80 papers in the fields of immunology, tumor biology and cytokine biology.