Dr. Shulamit Katzav-Shapira

Bernard L. & Mary T Sachs Chair in Cancer Research , Developmental Biology & Cancer Research, IMRIC
IMRIC Researcher
The Hebrew University/Hadassah Medical School

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Why I became a researcher: 

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Understanding what causes cancer always fascinated me. What drives a normal cell to divide uncontrollably, change its entire behavior and wander to different organs is a key question in understanding it. I was always fascinated by the enigma of cancer and this became even more of an obsession when my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and died shortly after diagnosis.

As a Ph.D. student I chose to study the mechanism of metastasis and made some breakthrough observations that were published in the prestigious journal Nature. In this investigation I showed that a tumor is composed of subpopulations of cells that differ in their metastatic properties depending on the expression of certain proteins. At that point of the development of cancer research, it became clear that faulty genes are the cause of cancer and I decided that this area of research has the most promise for a cure for cancer.

To continue my research in this area I have joined the lab of Dr. Barbacid at the National Cancer Institute, USA. Thereafter I discovered a new gene that nobody knew about and named it Vav. This newly identified transforming gene represented the sixth oncogene detected in the laboratory and it was designated Vav, the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Recently, I have shown that Vav plays a major role as a transforming protein in human cancer such as neuroblastoma, pancreatic cancer and lung cancer. This indicates that Vav can be a promising target protein in anti-tumor therapy.


1984-1989: Post-doc, National Cancer Institute

1980-1984: Ph.D., Weizmann Inst., Rehovot, Israel

1973-1976: M.Sc., Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel

1970-1973: B.Sc, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel

Selected Awards and Honors: 
2010: Rector’s list of excellence in teaching.2006 - Israel Cancer Association-Research Scholarship for the Excellency in Science (donated by Prof. D. and D. Israeli).
2009: Award for outstanding achievement given by the 14th World Congress on Advances in Oncology & 12th International Symposium on Molecular Medicine, October 15-17, 2009, Loutraki, Greece.
2008: Eva & George Klein Award for Cancer Research given by the Israel Science Foundation.
2008: Rector’s list of excellence in teaching.
2008: Prize of the Faculty of Medicine - Distinguished lecturer.