The Youdim Prize Committee is pleased to announce the 2015 recipient of the Youdim Prize for Excellence in Cancer Research: Benjamin Dekel, MD, PhD, Director of Pediatric Nephrology and Head of the Pediatric Stem Cell Research Institute, Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital, Chaim Sheba Medical Center and Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Human Genetics and Cellular Biochemistry at the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University.
Professor Gideon Rechavi, Head of the Cancer Research Center at Sheba Medical Center nominated Professor Dekel for the Youdim Prize in recognition of his critical role in identifying the cellular lineage that initiates and propagates human childhood cancer, leading to application of novel therapeutic regimens.
Professor Dekel received an MD from the Technion’s Ruth & Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine (1995) with distinction followed by clinical training in Pediatrics and Pediatric Nephrology at the Sheba Medical Center and Schneider Children's Medical Center, respectively. He pursued research training in immunology (PhD studies; with honors) and stem cell biology (Post-Doctorate) at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel.
Professor Dekel pioneered the identification and characterization of human renal stem cells (tissue-specific stem cells), and revealed how a ‘good’ stem cell population can potentially turn into a ‘bad’ one. In embryonic life ‘good’ renal stem cells differentiate and mature into the kidneys. In contrast, ‘bad’ stem cells can undergo uncontrolled proliferation leading to initiation and progression of a kidney tumor in children, called Wilms' tumor or nephroblastoma. His discovery of the Wilms' tumor stem cells allowed Professor Dekel and his team to understand the molecular pathways and bio-markers that characterize these cells and use an antibody drug conjugate for specific targeting of the cancer stem cells. A US-based clinical trial was set up utilizing Professor Dekel's approach for treatment of relapsing Wilms' tumors. In addition, the recent work of Professor Dekel and his team addresses the fundamentals of adult kidney cell growth in maintenance and regeneration by analyzing single cell behavior, informs on the cellular origin of renal carcinoma in adults. His ongoing work is an extraordinary example of how biomedical research moves from the bench to bedside.
Professor Dekel’s laboratory at Sheba is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of 15 trainees and trained personnel. He has trained a myriad of clinical and research physicians. Professor Dekel's research has been supported by multiple competitive grants and he has over 90 publications in leading peer reviewed journals. The recipient of numerous awards, including the the recent election to the American Society of Clinical Investigation, Professor Dekel is a much sought after speaker on the topic of stem cell research, cancer/development, and nephrology.