Cancer Rutgers

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

A collaborative spirit in the face of COVID-19

At Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, we engage in collaborative investigation to push the needle on identifying new cancer treatments to enhance our knowledge and resources in providing patient care. Faced with COVID-19 this past year, we have been working diligently to understand and manage the impact the virus has on cancer care and research. Now more than ever, a collaborative spirit is needed in order to address these challenges.  

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is at the forefront of cancer research, treatment, prevention and education. We focus on these core pillars through an integrated care model with RWJBarnabas Health – driven in part by investigator-initiated scientific exploration. That partnership, coupled with our infrastructure and expertise as New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, enabled us during the height of the pandemic to conduct a clinical trial examining a potential treatment for COVID-19 that was not limited to cancer patients. From conception to first accrual, we were able to launch this trial in an unprecedented nine days.  

This rapid approval not only speaks to our structure as an NCI center that can quickly and efficiently deploy clinical trials, but also to the overall collaborative spirit we maintain with other cancer centers, cooperative groups, industry and academia, including our NCI research consortia partner Princeton University. By working across multiple disciplines and specialties, and across institutions, we have been uniting with the strength that is needed to address COVID-19 and the impact it’s having on the cancer world.  

COVID-19 aside, we continue making inroads to address the regular business of cancer. With the aid of a recent $3.1-million National Institutes of Health grant, Rutgers Cancer Institute investigators are collaborating on translational research exploring the immune response to cancers that feature a high number of mutations. The impact of this work helped inspire philanthropic support to aid cutting-edge research within the Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence at Rutgers Cancer Institute. The center examines these disciplines to accelerate and translate laboratory discoveries into clinical treatments through more effective and efficiently designed clinical trials.  

This year, we also successfully applied for $900,000 in supplemental grant opportunities through the NCI to support electronic treatment plans for NCI-supported clinical trials, explore human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines, and develop a tobacco cessation treatment program for cancer patients.  

Education remains an important part of our mission. Supported by a recent $1.6-million NCI grant, the soon-to-be launched Rutgers Youth Enjoy Science (RUYES) program aims to increase the diversity of the biomedical, cancer research workforce in order to reduce cancer disparities across our state and nation. This program provides both students and teachers with a comprehensive learning experience in cancer research, career development, and community engagement. 

Additionally, we’ll have even more opportunity to engage with our communities in a more comprehensive fashion via a new freestanding cancer pavilion. Construction will soon begin on this facility that will house research, clinical and other key areas of Rutgers Cancer Institute on our New Brunswick campus. 

Along with RWJBarnabas Health, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is proud to stand with our many collaborators to ensure safe and integrated care for our patients, as well as drive scientific advances that reduce cancer mortality and contribute to the greater public health in unprecedented times such as these. 

About the Author 

Steven K. Libutti, MD, FACS, is the director of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; senior vice president, Oncology Services, RWJBarnabas Health; and vice chancellor, Cancer Programs, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. 

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