An All-Encompassing Fight Against Cancer

As New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, together with RWJBarnabas Health, is at the forefront of cancer research, treatment, prevention and education. Our integrated comprehensive care model, coupled with our infrastructure and expertise, enables us to develop and enhance treatment options to reduce the cancer burden for the residents of New Jersey and beyond.

Construction continues on the state’s first freestanding cancer hospital, the Jack and Sheryl Morris Cancer Center, which will serve as the epicenter of cancer discoveries. Scheduled for completion in 2024, RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute, in partnership with the New Brunswick Development Corporation, recently hosted a ‘topping off’ ceremony for this state-of-the-art facility, marking the completion of the steel construction phase of the project. The 12-story, 510,000-square-foot facility will house inpatient, outpatient and ancillary services, as well as laboratories where research faculty can provide hands-on educational opportunities for students in partnership with Middlesex College, and enable physician-scientists to translate scientific findings directly to patients.

Furthering our expansion of care across the state, we recently broke ground on our northern hub for the integrated oncology services offered by RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute on the campus of Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. The $225-million, five-story, 137,000-square-foot freestanding outpatient facility is scheduled for 2025 completion.

While our state and region will soon have access to a world-class facility, which will bring patient care and experience to the next level, an integrated multidisciplinary network of exceptional cancer specialists and researchers are continuing to revolutionize care through advances such CAR T-cell therapy and advanced immunotherapy.

Tapping into the dynamic relationship between the immune system and cancer, work has begun within the Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence with an aim of developing new immunotherapies and novel cell-based treatments. Some of these treatments are offered as part of clinical trials at Rutgers Cancer Institute and available through RWJBarnabas Health locations.

To further elevate the stature of our Hematologic Malignancies and Cellular Therapy Programs nationwide, Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health have appointed Matthew Matasar, MD, MS, as chief of blood disorders at Rutgers Cancer Institute along with Ira Braunschweig, MD, as chief, section of transplant and cell therapy at Rutgers Cancer Institute, chief of the transplant and cell therapy service of the RWJBarnabas Health Oncology Service Line, and director for cell therapy and bone marrow transplantation at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, an RWJBarnabas facility. Both serve as professors of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Leadership will continue to build on a strong foundation of excellence in blood and bone marrow transplantation and cell therapy research and clinical practice.

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. A world-class team of researchers assembled and led by Rutgers Cancer Institute and our deputy director and chief scientific officer, Eileen White, PhD, has been awarded a $25 million Cancer Grand Challenges grant. The Rutgers-led CANCAN (CANcer Cachexia Action Network) team, joined with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Weill Cornell Medicine, will address the challenge of cancer cachexia – a debilitating wasting condition people often experience in the later stages of their cancer. Through our longstanding relationship with our NCI Research Consortium Partner Princeton University, Ludwig Cancer Research Princeton Branch – a collaboration between Princeton, Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health, continues to explore cancer metabolism.

As one of the nation’s most ethnically and racially diverse states, we continue our commitment to achieving cancer health equity through outreach to and engagement of our extraordinarily diverse communities. RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute received a $2 million grant supported through the Alliance for Equity in Cancer Care (the Alliance), an initiative funded by the Merck Foundation and designed to make cancer care more equitable in the US, which will be utilized to address underlying social determinants of health, reduce barriers to care, lessen disparities, and ensure access to the most comprehensive treatments close to home. Through an award from the V Foundation for Cancer Research in partnership with ESPN, Rutgers Cancer Institute researchers are working to increase clinical trial awareness and enrollment of Black women with breast cancer.

Our mission and motivation remain consistent – provide the highest quality cancer care to every individual who seeks treatment through Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health; keeping exceptional cancer care close to home.

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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