Legacy, Passion and Moving Towards a Cure for Cancer with Dr. Aron Popovtzer

Widely published and the winner of many awards, Professor Aron Popovtzer is the director of the Sharett Institute of Oncology, Hadassah Medical Organization's national institute for the prevention, treatment, and research of cancer which serves both the population of greater Jerusalem and as a referral center for cancer patients for all over Israel and abroad.

He graduated from the Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Medicine, specialized in ear, nose, and throat (ENT) diseases, later adding oncology and radiotherapy to his areas of expertise. He pursued further specialization in head and neck cancer at the University of Michigan and in curative radioactive implants at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. He is the principal investigator of the Israeli arm of the trial of the pioneering use of targeted alpha ray radiation (instead of gamma rays which do auxiliary damage) to cure cancers including skin cancer, oral cancer, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer. He has recently returned to the Hadassah Ein Kerem campus from the Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tikva where he served for five years as deputy head of the oncology institute.

About the Episode

Walking the halls of Hadassah Hospital may feel a little familiar to Dr. Aron Popovtzer, the new head of Hadassah Medical Organization's Sharett Institute of Oncology. After all, it was the hospital that first brought the Popovtzer family to Israel decades ago when they moved from the suburbs of Philadelphia to Jerusalem. Aron was just nine years old when his father became the head of the Nephrology Department at Hadassah Hospital, where he remained for the next 24 years until his retirement.

Now, in 2020, the younger Dr. Popovtzer is shepherding his department into the future with the construction of a new cancer center. “It will be a one-stop shop for all patients," he said when we spoke to him for the new episode of the "Hadassah On Call" podcast. "Our treatments will be bit more personalized and patients will live better, live longer and have less side effects. This is the dream."

That dream is already off to a racing start. Dr. Popovtzer is expanding on existing science surrounding brachytherapy, which involves treating cancer by inserting radioactive seeds directly into a patient's body. He's pioneering a new form of treatment called DART — Diffused Alpha Radiation Therapy — which is so laser-focused that it eradicates the tumor cells and spares the surrounding healthy tissue. The DART study he is currently leading at Hadassah will later be implemented at hospitals all across the globe — including at Memorial Sloan Kettering and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "It is more effective than other radiation," he explained. "This is definitely an exciting treatment."

Moreover, Popovtzer's oncology department will be the first in Israel to offer genomic mapping to all of its cancer patients. The innovative treatment gives doctors unique insights into the tumor development for each individual person with cancer. "We're learning about many more mutations we did not know about," he said. "And so we have many more treatments to offer."

For the mild-mannered doctor, it's all in a day's work. "The self-fulfillment you have from curing cancer is so high, you just get addicted to it," he told us. "The passion I have towards this occupation is nothing I could compare to anything else."

What else you’ll hear in this episode:

Further learning

Hadassah's Sharett Institute of Oncology welcomes a new director
Breast Cancer and BRCA Gene Research at Hadassah Hospital

Read a transcript of this episode.

"Hadassah On Call: New Frontiers in Medicine" is a production of Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America. Hadassah enhances the health of people around the world through medical education, care and research innovations at the Hadassah Medical Organization. For more information on the latest advances in medicine please to hadassah.org.

Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app. If you haven't already, please leave us a review on the iTunes store. It only takes a minute and when you do it helps others discoverr "Hadassah on Call."

The show is hosted by Benyamin Cohen and edited by Skyler Inman and the team at the Hadassah offices in both New York and Israel.

This episode includes a promotion for:

The Branch
This podcast offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of Jews and Arabs in Israel forging meaningful relationships. Presented by Hadassah and hosted by Dina Kraft, "The Branch" shines a light on the stories of people living the example of a shared society. Together. Even though it’s complicated.hadassah.org/thebranch

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