fighting cancer

New Jersey’s Strong Foothold in Fighting Cancer

While cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the US, as cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, major investments in cancer research have led to dramatic improvements of our understanding and treatment of cancer.

More people are surviving cancer than ever before, and most of this progress comes from the discovery and development of highly tailored, targeted therapies that provide better control of cancer with fewer side effects. And the bulk of this oncology R&D is occurring right here in New Jersey, with the vast majority of clinical trials in New Jersey being in oncology, with 58 percent in New Jersey vs. 41 percent in the rest of the country, as reported in BioNJ’s Economic Impact of Clinical Trials Activity in New Jersey, released in partnership with Rutgers Business School and Rutgers Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

New Jersey has long been known as the talent mecca for the life sciences industry. Fourteen of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies are located in New Jersey, and for very good reason: New Jersey is home to many leading academic institutions – thus providing a talent pool required to perform the research, discovery and commercialization of cancer and other therapies. Many smaller companies are attracted to New Jersey for the talent as well. In fact, many have located here from other states and other countries, citing a talent pool rich in commercialization talent in particular, of which New Jersey has more than anywhere else on earth.

In 2015, there were 21 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals for new cancer therapies, with more than half coming from companies with a footprint in New Jersey. CenterWatch reported that five of these approved new therapies were considered to be truly innovative. They inlcude:

  • Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ Darzalex (daratumumab) for the treatment of multiple myeloma, and Yondelis (trabectedin) for the treatment of liposarcoma or leiomyosarcoma.
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Empliciti (elotuzumab) for the treatment of multiple myeloma. BMS’ Opdivo (nivolumab) was also approved in 2015 for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma and metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Novartis’ Farydak (panobinostat) for the treatment of multiple myeloma.
  • Taiho Oncology’s Lonsurf (trifluridine and tipiracil) for the treatment of metastatic colorectal carcinoma.

Other New Jersey-based companies that have trained their sights on discovering and developing the next generation of cancer therapies include:

Merck & Co.

In the news this year for successfully treating former President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma, Merck’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is an immunotherapy used to treat melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC). Merck announced in April that the Food and Drug Administration had granted “breakthrough therapy designation” for Keytruda to treat relapsed classical Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer.

Celgene Corporation

The company has more than 300 clinical trials at major medical centers using its compounds. Investigational compounds are being studied for patients with incurable hematological and solid tumor cancers, including multiple myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), triple-negative breast cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Advaxis Immunotherapies

Advaxis is a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing cancer immunotherapies that enlist the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Advaxis’ core technology – Lm Technology™ – alters a live strain of Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) bacteria to stimulate cancer-fighting T cells directed against a cancer antigen(s) and reduce factors that protect the tumor microenvironment from immunologic attack and contribute to tumor growth.


Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company developing oral therapies that target the various phases of cell cycle control for the treatment of cancer and other serious diseases. Sapacitabine (CYC682), Cyclacel’s most advanced product candidate, is the subject of SEAMLESS, a Phase 3 trial, which has completed enrollment and is being conducted under an SPA with the FDA as front-line treatment for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in the elderly, and other indications including myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).


Immunomedics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing monoclonal antibody-based products for the targeted treatment of cancer, autoimmune disorders and other serious diseases. Its portfolio of investigational products includes antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) that are designed to deliver a specific payload of a chemotherapeutic directly to the tumor while reducing overall toxic effects that are usually found with conventional administration of these chemotherapeutic agents.


Based on its breakthrough photodynamic technology, Photocure has developed a unique product to aid in the diagnosis and management of non-muscle invasive bladder cancer. Cysview® is an optical imaging agent indicated for use in the cystoscopic detection of non-muscle invasive papillary cancer of the bladder among patients suspected or known to have lesion(s) on the basis of a prior cystoscopy.

Because Patients Can’t WaitSM – with 1.7 million new cancer cases expected to be diagnosed in 2016 as reported by the American Cancer Society – BioNJ is inspired by – and privileged to work with – those committed to changing the lives of patients and their families around the world.


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