Dr. Eileen White, the chief scientific officer at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, offered up the funny line that many researchers have used over the years to describe the best possible outcome of their work. Her goal, she said, was simple.
“I’m working hard, so I won’t have a job,” she said.
The remark drew laughs from the more than 150 doctors, researchers, clinicians and, most of all, supporters, who came to the RWJBarnabas Health/Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey event Wednesday night in New Brunswick.
White was part of an all-star panel detailing the amazing journey the Cancer Institute has made in the past three decades – going from a single office with just a few cubicles to one of the finest centers for cancer research and treatment in the country, one that soon will be boosted by the opening of the Jack and Sheryl Morris state-of-the-art freestanding cancer hospital in New Brunswick.
The idea that there is an end game to research – especially when it comes to something as complicated as cancer research – obviously is just a wonderous dream. But the reality of what is occurring through the RWJBH/RCINJ partnership is nothing short of phenomenal.
World-class doctors and researchers, such as White, are quickly making discoveries and advancing treatments in so many areas of oncology.
It’s a big reason why the group was gathered Wednesday afternoon – to show off what is being done and what can be achieved.
RWJBarnabas Health CEO Mark Manigan said it’s important to let everyone know the life-saving advances that are happening in New Jersey.
“The story sells itself,” he said. “We have to tell the story to more people. We have to get people down here to see what’s going on because the more people we touch, the more money we raise, the more we’ll be able to accomplish.
“What’s happening among the RWJBarnabas/Rutgers partnership, and the incredible work that’s being done in New Brunswick and throughout the rest of the system around medical innovation, is the best kept secret in New Jersey, but not for long.”
RWJBH and RCINJ officials are hoping to attract more donors to help them on their journey.
A newly established web site, TransformingCancerTogether.com, details how investing in state-of-the-art facilities, translational research, sophisticated technologies and nationally recognized faculty, physicians and staff, the organizations’ unprecedented venture will strengthen their collective work to reimagine cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment, officials said.
Here are some of the ways they are doing just that:
A statewide network of care
· The Jack and Sheryl Morris Cancer Center in New Brunswick – a $750 million investment where patients will have access to advanced clinical research, cancer treatments and oncology support services;
· The Cancer Center at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston – a $225 million outpatient center that will be a regional hub for integrated cancer services;
· The Vogel Medical Campus at Tinton Falls – a $200 million outpatient center in Monmouth County that will include comprehensive cancer services, same-day surgery, on-site specialty services and advanced diagnostic imaging.
The recruitment and retention of world-class clinical and academic leaders to expand their research portfolio and train the next generation of clinicians, include:
· The Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence at Rutgers Cancer Institute, which will lead the development of new therapies for patients and allow researchers to test new interventions;
· The Ludwig Princeton Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at Princeton University, which is dedicated to the study of cancer metabolism and the translation of discoveries into clinical trials and novel therapies for patients.
Options available to patients include:
· Increased access to care and advanced treatment options, like precision medicine, immunotherapy, CAR T-Cell therapy, bone and marrow transplantation, complex surgical procedures and sophisticated radiation therapy techniques, many not widely available elsewhere;
· Enhanced patient and family experiences, powered by an oncology nurse navigation program and holistic wellness resources, to ensure physical and emotional health throughout the cancer journey.
Dr. Steven Libutti, the director of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and an SVP of oncology services at RWJBarnabas Health, said milestone moments are happening on a regular basis.
“We are at an inflection point in cancer,” he said. “Our joint investment of resources, expertise and compassion means we’ll continue to provide our patients and their families with the care and support they won’t find anywhere else.”
The aim is to do more.
White, who serves as the co-director of McMillan Center among many roles, said research is key.
“My goal is to bring as many people together to accelerate discovery both in the labs and in the clinics to develop the next generation of cancer treatments,” she said. “The faster we move, the better it is for everybody.”
Dr. Matthew Matasar, chief of the division of blood disorders at the Cancer Institute and a panelist, said he is looking to raise the bar.
“I think there’s an opportunity in the next few years to be more ambitious – to work together to redefine the standard of care, to develop the new standards of care, and then to be able to offer those to communities around the state,” he said.
How to give
Officials at RWJBH and the Rutgers Cancer Institute of N.J. are transforming the face of cancer in the state in three ways:
· Increasing access to care closer to home;
· Advancing groundbreaking research and clinical trials;
· Enhancing the patient experience.
Learn more about their efforts – and learn how to donate – by clicking here.
Libutti, who moderated the panel, agreed.
“To whom much is given, much is expected,” he said.
Libutti said the resources available – from philanthropists such as Jack and Sheryl Morris, Duncan and Nancy McMillan, Bob Campbell and others – to a commitment from the state, can have a big impact.
Libutti said he aims to bring care across the state regardless of ability to pay and to lower the barriers of access.
“It’s our obligation to execute on all of that over the next 10 years,” he said.
All of this talk was overwhelming joyous to one special panelist: Dr. Bill Hait, the first director of the Cancer Institute – the person who started it all in that tiny office with just a few cubicles.
“I am amazed to be sitting here, hearing all of these phenomenal people to talk about the Cancer Institute in the way you are – and the accomplishments that have been made,” he said.
Hait said the discussion surpassed any of the wildest dreams he may have had when the Cancer Institute was founded in 1993.
“I would have loved to have thought I’d be sitting here 30 years later, and people would be talking about the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey like I’ve heard today,” he said.
Video Courtesy of RWJBarnabas Health