RWJBarnabas, Rutgers Cancer Institute unveil plans for standalone $750M cancer center

Speaker after speaker talked about the impact the Cancer Pavilion, a state-of-the-art, free-standing facility being created by RWJBarnabas Health and the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, will have on the city of New Brunswick and the state of New Jersey.

The facility, being built in partnership with New Brunswick Development Corp., is estimated to have a project cost of $750 million. Officials said they hope to break ground next summer, the start of a four-year process to its ribbon-cutting.

The Cancer Pavilion will house key outpatient services, including those for chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as the major diagnostic modalities and inpatient cancer services.

It also will feature research laboratories, enabling physician-scientists to more rapidly translate scientific findings from laboratory bench to patient bedside, resulting in clinical assessment, feedback on clinical trials and collection of research data in a more rapid and direct fashion.

It will be a game-changer, the speakers said. And it should give New Jerseyans confidence that they can be treated for any cancer effectively without crossing the border.

The final speaker, Brian Strom, the chancellor for Rutgers University‘s biomedical and health sciences and the executive vice president for health affairs, said he is aiming even higher.

Being one of 50 designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country is not good enough, Strom said.

“With today’s announcement, we’re declaring our intent to pull away from the pack and move into the upper echelon of cancer programs in the United States,” he said.

“This new facility will serve as a launching pad. Together with these expanded facilities, we’ll be able to serve more patients, perform more clinical trials, conduct more (National Institutes of Health)-funded research, bring more money into the state in the process and train the next generation of health care professionals in the newest techniques, treatments and modalities.”

Rutgers Cancer Institute Director Steven Libutti said the new facility will enable the institute to raise its game.

“We have always had the ability to provide a one-stop experience with clinical experts all on one campus, so that a cancer patient could have blood work done, talk to their oncologist, talk to an oncology pharmacist, see a doctor or other surgeon, receive chemo or radiation treatment, seek assistance from a social worker or a medical librarian all in one visit,” he said.

“However, instead of having to travel a block or more away for their image or for their radiation therapy or, if they need to be admitted to the hospital, traveling across the street to go to the hospital, whatever service they need now, we’ll be in one location and will allow us to coordinate their care as one team.

“If the disease requires that higher level of care, they can be assured that communication between their outpatient team and their inpatient team is seamless, as they will all be working in the same location focused on the patient and the patient’s family. Having these clinicians and other experts housed in one building, communicating in real time, reduces the chances of misinformation, helps maintain a level of consistency with treatment protocols and it’s the kind of care that we only see at freestanding cancer hospitals such as MD Anderson, Memorial Sloan Kettering and others around the country.”

State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) shared in the enthusiasm.

“When we did the higher education reorganization, we dreamed of these types of events happening,” Sweeney said.

Coughlin said everyone will benefit.

“We often talk about partnerships and we talk about a win-win-win, well this is a win-win-win-win-win-win-win,” he said. “It’s a win at every level. It’s a win for RWJBarnabas, it’s a win for Rutgers, it’s a win for the county, it’s a win for the city, it’s a win for the Legislature.

“Mostly, it’s a win for the people this facility is going to serve, because that’s what it’s really all about.”

Devco President Chris Paladino said the group’s latest project in the city has the ability to be as impactful as any of the dozens of others.

“New Brunswick has always been a laboratory, a test bed for public-private partnerships (that have) impact on the quality of life for people who live, study, discover and work in our city,” he said. “(It’s) a partnership that will have a major impact on the lives of every New Jerseyan.

“There’s no magic to any of this. It works because we prepare, we work hard, we innovate, we learn from our success, we even learn from our mistakes. It works because we do it through partnerships. There is no more noble endeavor than to turn the power of a partnership and collaboration to facilitate the mission of academic medicine, of research, education, patient care, ensuring that scientific findings will translate directly from the bench to the bedside.”

RWJBarnabas Health CEO Barry Ostrowsky said bringing such a big group together was key.

“As with all great things, it can only be done in partnership form, and we at RWJBarnabas Health, in partnership with Rutgers University, with the city of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Development Corp., form an effective group of motivated people who want to see our communities healthier,” he said.

“This new building will house state-of-the-art educational services, state-of-the-art medical research and, of course, provide great clinical care to those who need it.

“Eventually, we hope fewer people will need clinical care for cancer but, until that happens, we are proud to, in fact, have the state’s only nationally designated comprehensive cancer center, and it deserves an appropriate resource and an appropriate home.”

Strom said he can’t wait to get started.

“Today, we’re here to underscore that, despite our success, we’re not resting on our laurels,” he said.

“Our patients need us to be striving for even greater achievements every day with urgency, courage and passion.”

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