Learn about the Transforming Tomorrow Campaign by watching our film. It celebrates our milestone anniversary, highlights the American philanthropic relationship with the Weizmann Institute, and welcomes you to join us as we accelerate the next 75 years of scientific breakthroughs.
Read below about Emily Whitehead’s miraculous journey back to health, thanks to Weizmann science.
Kari and Tom Whitehead: How Science Saved Their Daughter’s Life
Without basic research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Kari and Tom Whitehead would have lost their precious child. The Whiteheads’ daughter Emily was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2010. She was just five years old. The family was devastated, but they were ready for the fight of their lives.
After Emily’s diagnosis, she immediately started rounds of chemotherapy. But when she relapsed in 2011, it was clear that her disease was going to be much harder to fight than initially anticipated. The Whiteheads felt helpless as they watched their daughter grow weaker every day. Eventually, they were told to prepare to take Emily home for hospice care. However, they were not ready to give up hope.
At just the right moment, Emily’s doctor told them about a highly experimental clinical trial called T-cell therapy. They enrolled Emily right away and the treatment was successful. Almost five years later, Emily is healthy and cancer-free.
Today, the Whiteheads tour the country, attending events to speak about the importance of basic research in saving lives. “What’s been done in Weizmann Institute labs has changed the world,” they said, “and we can tell you first hand that it saved a very precious life.”
What’s been done in Weizmann Institute labs has changed the world, and we can tell you firsthand that it saved a very precious life.Kari and Tom Whitehead
Two drugs that use CAR T-cell immunotherapy, the therapy that helped Emily beat cancer, recently received FDA approval. This treatment was pioneered in the 1980s by the Weizmann Institute’s Prof. Zelig Eshhar, Department of Immunology. He developed a method that employs “T bodies”—genetically modified white blood T cells outfitted with receptors that specifically seek out and identify tumors, promoting their destruction.
Over the course of two decades, Prof. Eshhar’s T-body technology went from a revolutionary idea to a real medical treatment. Because of his findings, Prof. Eshhar and other researchers have been able to expand their experiments with immunotherapy to other cancers, autoimmune disorders, and even HIV.
More than 60 research groups at the Weizmann Institute are focused on cancer, and Weizmann’s unique multidisciplinary environment means that collaborative teams of experts bring many different perspectives. Weizmann scientists are investigating ways to treat several other blood-related cancers, including multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma, and a variety of leukemias.
Emily Whitehead’s miraculous recovery illustrates why ongoing research at the Weizmann Institute is essential. “This research saved our daughter Emily,” her parents said, “and it may save your family member or your own life.”