Transforming cancer care: How philanthropy fuels research, discovery, innovation in N.J.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Director Libutti details how donations have been the foundation for amazing advancements in care

Asian scientist using microscope in the laboratory

Dr. Steven Libutti, the director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, is overwhelmingly grateful for the more than $50 million of annual support the center gets appropriated annually from the state. He calls the state an amazing partner.

“It believes in our mission,” he said.

With the funding, RCINJ is able to provide world-class cancer care to New Jersey residents that is close to their homes.

But when it comes to scientific research, the reality is this: Philanthropic contributions are the key to game-changing and life-altering advancements.

Philanthropic donations not only lead to massively important structures and centers – such as the free-standing Jack and Sheryl Morris Cancer Center and the Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence at Rutgers Cancer Institute – but it fuels the research needed for RCINJ to compete for highly coveted grants from the National Cancer Institute, Libutti said.

Dr. Steven Libutti

“Those state dollars, while they help us with the infrastructure and to be able to have the facilities that we have, it doesn’t pay for the actual projects that generate the pilot data that we have to have to be successful in applying for those grants,” he said.

The reality is that only approximately 10% of grant requests are funded, Libutti said.

“We’ve been very successful in getting grants, but you can’t compete effectively unless you have that preliminary data – the leads that you need to be able to convince the granting agencies that what you’re doing is worthwhile and worth their investment,” he said.

“Philanthropy is really where all roads lead.”

On Thursday, RWJBarnabas Health and the RCINJ launched a Transforming Cancer Together campaign aimed at attracting additional supporters. The campaign had a soft launch Wednesday night, when the groups gave a presentation to their supporters detailing the phenomenal success the Cancer Institute has had since it was launched in 1993 (see full story here).

A newly established web site,, 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.

Libutti said the dollars donated previously have allowed the Cancer Institute to accomplish so much.

Libutti spoke of the Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Center of Excellence for Cancer Immunology and Metabolism.

“If not for that incredible investment of $25 million, we would have never been able to recruit a Christian Henrichs from the National Cancer Institute to serve as co-director.

Libutti spoke of how RCINJ has one of the leading programs for genetically engineered immune cell therapy.

“We can take a patient’s immune cells, genetically modify them in the laboratory, and then use them back to their cancer,” he said. “We would have never been able to build that program here, if not for philanthropy.”

And, of course, Libutti spoke of the $750 million, state-of-the-art Jack and Sheryl Morris Cancer Center, the first free-standing cancer hospital in the state. Among other things, it will add 10 new research laboratories.

“It will enable us to recruit the talent that we need from across the country to deliver on our promise of reducing the burden and suffering due to cancer for our population,” he said. “Without philanthropy, that doesn’t happen.”

All of this goes to the complicated nature of cancer research, Libutti said.

“Cancer isn’t just one disease,” he said. “It falls under an umbrella term, but it’s many different diseases. Our understanding of one form helps us with the understanding of another, but it doesn’t solve the riddle. So, we are constantly pushing to make progress in the laboratory that leads to those new discoveries.”

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.


Philanthropy makes that happen, Libutti said.

More than that, it enables the Cancer Institute to fulfill its ultimate goal.

“We’ve said this since our inception: The Cancer Institute of New Jersey is a patient-focused, patient-centered place,” he said. “That is absolutely true. It’s in our DNA.

“We committed to caring for every patient in New Jersey that might need our care. But without the research – and the philanthropy that leads to that research – we never make that progress.

“So, it’s two sides of the same coin: Outstanding exceptional cancer care and exceptional Cancer Research each elevates the other in terms of our ability to make progress.”