It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing away of Bella Kaufman. The breast cancer community has lost one of its leading researchers and most brilliant scientists. Cancer has stolen yet another amazing person. The Breast International Group (BIG) offers its heartfelt condolences to her family, colleagues, friends, and relatives.
Professor Kaufman was an exceptional Israeli oncologist, globally respected for her pioneering work in the field of breast cancer research and, more specifically, BRCA mutations and genetics. She has been an investigator on many important clinical trials, some of which are essential to the development of PARP inhibitors for the treatment of BRCA-related cancers.
As Chair of the Sheba Breast Collaborative Group (SBCG), which joined the BIG network in 2000, Professor Kaufman has been involved in international trials run in collaboration with BIG, such as the BRAVO and OlympiA clinical trials. Both studies focus on BRCA mutations. She was one of the principal investigators of the OlympiA study, the first results of which will be presented soon.
“The passing away of Professor Kaufman is another tremendous loss for the breast cancer community. Bella was a brilliant researcher and a compassionate doctor who will be greatly missed.”David Cameron, BIG Chair
An oncologist with over 25 years’ experience, Bella was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2013. Since then, she used her personal experience to tirelessly address breast cancer patients’ needs. With her powerful testimony and her deep sense of empathy and optimism, she touched and inspired countless people.
Bella’s condition triggered the launch of a compassionate programme for metastatic breast cancer patients in Israel called PALBOCICLIB, of which she was the first patient.
Professor Kaufman obtained her medical degree and completed her oncology training at the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. She was the founder and leader of the Israeli Consortium for Hereditary Breast Cancer and, in 2001, was appointed head of the Breast Cancer Unit at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, Israel, which is affiliated with the University of Tel Aviv.
An academic, she published widely and held positions as an expert on various committees, consulting and providing advice to the Ministry of Health and the Israeli parliament on key issues concerning oncology-related health policy. She was the former secretary of the Israeli Breast Group, bringing the group to BIG, and also member of the Israeli Cancer Association’s research and steering committees up to the time of her death.
In December 2020, Prof Kaufman was honoured with the eighth “Basser Global Prize”, which recognises a leading scientist who has conceptually advanced BRCA1/2-related research. This prestigious annual award is granted by the Basser Center for BRCA at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, the world’s first comprehensive centre aimed at advancing research, treatment and prevention of BRCA-related cancers.
Finally, Professor Kaufman’s deep humanity is reflected in the work that she did with various non-governmental organisations that promote the right to health equality and that provide medical assistance at Physicians for Human Rights-Israel’s clinics. She was particularly involved with underserved cancer patient populations in her region, taking care of African refugees that fled to Israel, and supporting the Palestinian population of the West Bank. Her dedication will be sorely missed.