As the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is at the forefront of cancer research, treatment and prevention. With more than 25 years of providing patient care, we have a tremendous responsibility of delivering high-quality services, and we are accomplishing this through an integrated care model with RWJBarnabas Health. This partnership enables us to provide patients with greater access to the most advanced treatment options close to home.
Universally recognized for our scientific excellence, many of our unique treatment approaches – including immunotherapy, precision medicine and genomic analysis – are a result of exploration by our own physician scientists conducted in Rutgers Cancer Institute laboratories and clinics. This research propels the development of clinical trials so that we can literally bring the science ‘from bench to bedside and back again’ – enabling us to personalize treatments for patients in a rapid fashion.
By virtue of our Comprehensive Cancer Center designation, Rutgers Cancer Institute offers access to unique clinical trials exploring investigational therapies that may not be offered anywhere else in the region. For some patients whose cancer is no longer responding to traditional therapies, a clinical trial may be their best option, and they can access such studies either through Rutgers Cancer Institute or through the RWJBarnabas Health system.
Offering therapies most recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration is also vital to enhancing patient treatment options. CAR-T cell therapy is one of these new groundbreaking treatments. This form of therapy, in which one’s lymphocytes are collected and re-engineered to attack a target on malignant cells, is now being offered at Rutgers Cancer Institute in conjunction with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), an RWJBarnabas Health facility. Given the unusual and sometimes severe side effects that require prompt recognition and treatment, CAR-T cell treatment is currently offered only at centers that perform stem cell transplants and have specially trained clinicians such as ours. Our certified CAR-T cell therapy program is one of the first in the state to provide this cutting-edge form of care, which is offering hope and possibly cure for some patients.
Technological and surgical advances also are important in reducing the cancer burden. Rutgers Cancer Institute, in concert with RWJUH, is one of only two locations in the state to offer a form of radiation known as proton therapy. Our facilities also offer unique surgical expertise in the treatment of mesothelioma and abdominal cavity cancers through a procedure involving surgery and a form of heated chemotherapy (HIPEC) – a treatment only offered at a few centers in the US.
Along with expanding clinical offerings to include treatment of neuroendocrine tumors and mesothelioma, we continue to enhance our teams with the addition of oncology specialists and nurse navigators. Also being implemented is a telemedicine program that will enable patients and physicians anywhere within the RWJBarnabas Health system to consult with experts at the Rutgers Cancer Institute.
Learning more about our populations is also vital. Through the recruitment of a new cancer leader to Rutgers Cancer Institute, we are enhancing community outreach initiatives and ensuring that we are integrating vulnerable populations into population science, clinical and translational research efforts. And early detection is key in the fight against cancer. That is why Rutgers Cancer Institute, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Health and regional healthcare providers, launched ScreenNJ earlier this year. This program focuses on education, outreach and navigation to increase screening for colon and lung cancer.
By focusing on prevention and education, offering the highest quality of care and putting patients first, Rutgers Cancer Institute together with RWJBarnabas Health are helping to reduce cancer mortality and improve health outcomes.
About the Author: Steven K. Libutti, MD, FACS, is the director of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; senior vice president for oncology services at RWJBarnabas Health, and vice chancellor of cancer programs at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.