Aiding in the longtime mission to increase investment in cancer research, Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed the fiscal year 2022 state budget, which included a $10 million appropriation to support pediatric cancer research. This legislation, which was sponsored by Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Senator Anthony M. Bucco, will support the establishment of the Pediatric Cancer Center at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, which in partnership with RWJBarnabas Health, is a leader in pediatric cancer research and care.
Currently, fewer than 5% of federal funding for cancer research is dedicated specifically to understanding and seeking cures for pediatric cancer, and only two drugs targeting childhood cancer have been approved in the past 20 years according to the American Cancer Society. The American Cancer Society also predicts approximately 10,500 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer this year. While cancer survival rates for children have improved significantly over the past 50 years, cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease among children.
“New Jersey is a leader in the fight against cancer but we know that more research will help to identify ways to prevent and treat pediatric cancers. Additional support for pediatric cancer research is a top priority so that we can continue to make progress to reduce cancer incidence and improve outcomes for young cancer victims,” said Senator Stephen Sweeney. “This funding will support the establishment of the Pediatric Cancer Center at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey so we can increase awareness, support more research and work for a cure to a disease that impacts so many.”
“As New Jersey Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, our mission is to conduct cutting-edge research and translate those findings into new and improved therapies,” notes Rutgers Cancer Institute Director Steven K. Libutti, MD, FACS, who is also the senior vice president of oncology services at RWJBarnabas Health. “This is a huge step forward to ensure that our pediatric cancer researchers have the funding necessary to continue to advance pediatric cancer research and care. We are extremely grateful for this support, as well as all of the continued support provided by the legislature and Governor.”
The funding was championed by Grace Eline, a 12-year old survivor of brain cancer and childhood cancer awareness advocate who was treated at Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health, and her mother Aubrey Eline in collaboration with the American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO). The ACCO is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots organization dedicated to childhood cancer, and spearheaded the movement to increase investment in pediatric cancer research in all 50 states.
Grace shares, “We are excited that the legislators have chosen to support this worthy cause. It is inspiring that this is the first-of-its-kind funding for pediatric cancer in this state. I know firsthand how amazing Rutgers Cancer Institute is at helping childhood cancer warriors and I am thankful that they can help even more now.”
“Cancer is the number one disease-related cause of death for children in America. In spite of that, currently, 29 states have no mention of childhood cancer in their state cancer action plan as identified by the American Childhood Cancer Organization’s landscape analysis,” said Ruth Hoffman, chief executive officer of the ACCO. “Most cancer research at the national and state level is dedicated to adult cancers. Through advocates like Grace Eline and her mom, we are grateful for the collaboration with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey to prioritize the inclusion of pediatric cancer research in the New Jersey state cancer budget.”
“This funding will be transformational in continuing to advance our research and treatment for children with cancer,” said Peter Cole, MD, chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Embrace Kids Foundation Endowed Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute and professor of pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Funds dedicated to pediatric cancer research will allow researchers to broaden our scientific understanding, raise survival rates, improve quality of life and allow us to continue to offer an array of investigational treatments to pediatric cancer patients at Rutgers Cancer Institute.”
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