Women of Action celebrates chai anniversary

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Since its inception, the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) has harnessed the knowledge, educational resources and research of Israel’s best and brightest scientists for one goal: to find a cure for cancer. The ICRF’s annual Women of Action luncheon, now in its 18th year, celebrates women’s achievements in the categories of health sciences, community philanthropy and business.

On May 2 at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, these distinguished awards will be bestowed on four honourees: Bonnie Fuller, Leanne Matlow, Dr. Frances Shepherd and Fern Simpson Reich. These women may work in very different professions, but they all share a distinct passion to support cancer research.

The Women of Action honourees

Fuller, president and editor in chief of HollywoodLife.com, will receive the Carole Tanenbaum WOA Business Award for her illustrious career and her role in conceiving a leading digital destination for women.

“I am really very honoured,” said Fuller. “For me, trying to find cures for the many types of cancer is something that is incredibly important.

“When my daughter – now a healthy 22-year-old – had just turned five, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She was offered a new treatment protocol which was still somewhat experimental. It was a tough two-year treatment. I have so much gratitude that she had the benefit of research, and that treatment is now standard for children with her form of cancer.”

Meanwhile, Matlow will be presented with the WOA Inspiration Award for her important contribution to the community as a cognitive behavioural therapy counsellor and mental heath educator.

“This award is a huge honour. Once upon a time, we didn’t say the word “cancer” – it was “the C word” – and in many ways, mental health has suffered that same sort of stigma,” said Matlow.

“I often tell my clients, ‘This is a war, and we want to empower you with weapons so you can fight back and be mentally healthy.’ The idea of being resilient and to bounce back … that’s the same fight as the researchers in the ICRF who are looking for treatment in cancer.”


The Wendy Lack WOA Scientific Award will be given to Shepherd, who works in the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre’s Cancer Clinical Research Unit. Shepherd’s achievements in the development and conduct of clinical trials are recognized internationally. She has been instrumental in the design and conduct of research studies evaluating the new targeted agents and anti-angiogenesis agents in lung cancer, among many other initiatives.

“All awards are incredibly rewarding and appreciated and important,” said Shepherd. “I have spent an entire career and a professional lifetime studying lung cancer. Our clinical trials in early stage lung cancer have led to a change in the cure rate after surgery by adding chemotherapy. This has changed practice at a global level. Our latest advance is immunotherapy, and lung cancer is one of the cancers for which immunotherapy is the most active. We have had some incredible results.”

The Vicki Campbell “VAST” Community WOA Award will be conferred on Simpson Reich for her vital work in the community.

“I was 37 years old with two little girls when I lost my husband to cancer. I threw myself into this organization. I have chaired WOA for 13 of the 18 years and have been blown away by the incredible group of women and leaders in our community,” said Simpson Reich. “I feel very fortunate that I am receiving the VAST Award. We will be able to fund several grants as a result of monies raised for this event.”

ICRF was founded in 1975 with chapters around the country devoted to supporting cancer research in Israel. Since its founding, the organization has awarded more than 2,426 grants to Israeli cancer researchers. With the grants for 2018-19, ICRF’s funding has now surpassed the $68 million mark.


To purchase tickets, visit: icrf.ca/women-of-action.