Keeping patients at the center of all we do is paramount to providing exceptional cancer care. As part of our mission as the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and RWJBarnabas Health achieve this through an integrated care model in which patients have access to the state’s largest team of exceptional oncologists close to home.
This objective will be further realized in the state’s first freestanding cancer hospital scheduled to open in 2024. In partnership with the New Brunswick Development Corporation, we broke ground earlier this year on the Jack and Sheryl Morris Cancer Center, a 510,000-square-foot structure that will house inpatient, outpatient and ancillary services. This is in addition to state-of-the-art laboratories where critical scientific investigation will be amplified, enabling physician-scientists to translate findings directly to patients. With the help of a $25 million investment in the project from Middlesex County, workforce training and education will be offered to job applicants through a partnership with Middlesex College and others to foster innovation and discovery, and provide an environment filled with robust educational prospects for Middlesex County residents.
However, before we even step foot into that new structure, we continue to accelerate groundbreaking discoveries that will add to our unique treatment arsenal that includes proton therapy, CAR T-cell therapy, and advanced immunotherapy.
A $10 million state appropriation was awarded to support pediatric cancer research at Rutgers Cancer Institute. Federal grant funding is supporting our collaborative efforts with the University of North Carolina to fight pancreatic cancer using a novel type of radiation and nanoparticles ($2.7 million from the NCI), and with George Mason University to examine ways to better inform HER2 breast cancer treatment ($1.33 million, U.S. Army Breast Cancer Research Program Breakthrough Award).
We continue to focus on preparing future cancer investigators thanks to a $1.3 million NCI grant that provides postdoctoral candidates with the highest quality training and research experience, and a $9 million NCI contract awarded to the New Jersey State Cancer Registry, which is under the direction of the state Department of Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute. This grant supports research activities under the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, including those aimed at cancer prevention.
Our longstanding relationship with our NCI Research Consortium Partner Princeton University was leveraged to establish the Ludwig Cancer Research Princeton Branch – a collaboration between Princeton, Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health – with a number of our faculty named to lead the branch. Their work on cancer metabolism, not only through the new Ludwig Branch, but also through the Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence at Rutgers Cancer Institute, will accelerate and translate laboratory discoveries into clinical treatments through more effective and efficiently designed clinical trials.
We continue with efforts to better understand and manage COVID-19. Earlier this year, our investigators evaluated the frequency of the virus that causes COVID-19 on environmental surfaces in outpatient and inpatient hematology/oncology settings and found extremely low detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Additionally, in collaboration with Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Rice University, our researchers demonstrated that a technology with favorable biological attributes known as phage display, could be a viable platform for the development of new vaccines to protect against COVID-19.
Together with RWJBarnabas Health, we continue to work collaboratively with multiple partners to drive scientific advances and develop and enhance treatment options to reduce the cancer burden for the patients we serve in New Jersey and beyond. t
About the Author:
Steven K. Libutti, MD, FACS, is the director of the 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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