Newswise — Now known as Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Cancer Institute was established in 1991, became an NCI-designated Cancer Center in 1997, achieved Comprehensive Cancer Center status in 2002 and was successfully re-designated in 2012. The Cancer Institute of New Jersey was elevated under the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act, and became an independent unit of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey on July 1, 2013.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is dedicated to improving the prevention, detection, treatment, and care of patients with cancer, through the translation of laboratory discoveries into clinical practice. Its research base spans six key programmatic areas: Cell Death and Survival Signaling; Genomic Instability and Tumor Progression; Cancer Pharmacology and Preclinical Therapeutics; Clinical Investigations; Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention; and Cancer Prevention and Control.

Highlights of the Cancer Institute’s research enterprise include a research consortium and collaboration with Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study, a Center for Systems Biology, and a precision medicine initiative.

The precision medicine initiative at the Cancer Institute explores gene abnormalities through targeted DNA analysis. While investigators aim to identify genomic changes and patterns that may possibly influence treatment outcomes in more common cancers, they are examining rare and poor prognosis cancers as well. Rapid assessment through Next Generation Sequencing enables researchers to put theory into practice almost immediately. Biomarkers that are discovered are discussed at a weekly meeting of the precision medicine molecular tumor board, comprised of clinicians, basic scientists, geneticists, systems biologists and those with computational expertise. The team then decides if the sequencing results suggest more ‘personalized’ therapy options, which could include enrollment in a clinical trial that is testing a novel drug.

Beyond New Jersey’s border, through Rutgers University, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey is now part of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium, which is comprised of universities whose athletic programs are part of the Big Ten Conference. Through a team-research culture, the Cancer Institute collaborates with other member institutions on developing clinical trials with a molecular diagnostic focus in order to improve the lives of cancer patients.

Comprehensive treatment is provided by multidisciplinary teams of experts including oncologists, hematologists, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, nutritionists and others all under one roof to help educate patients so that they can make informed decisions about their care. Patients also have access to clinical trials and other services through the Cancer Institute of New Jersey’s Network of 16 hospitals across the state. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital is the Flagship Hospital of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. With specialty care available through the Stacy Goldstein Breast Cancer Center, Fannie E. Rippel Center for Women's Reproductive Cancers/Gynecologic Oncology Program, the Gallo Prostate Cancer Center, and through other adult and pediatric oncology programs, specialty services also are offered at the Institute. Unique to Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is the LIFE (Ladies Professional Golf Pros In the Fight to Eradicate breast cancer) Center, which is dedicated to educating young women about how to maintain good breast health and prevent breast cancer. Included in the education component through the LIFE Center is the Institute’s HOPE (Hereditary Oncology Prevention and Evaluation) Program. The HOPE Program features a genetic counseling and testing component that offers individuals information about their risk of developing cancer based on their personal medical history and/or family history of cancer.

Community outreach work at the Cancer Institute includes smoking cessation education through the Tobacco Dependence Program and extends to underserved populations in New Jersey through varied efforts including an initiative aimed at teaching cancer prevention through good nutrition at houses of worship. Mentoring programs for high school and undergraduate students that allow them to work alongside researchers in the lab also are focused on underrepresented populations. Other outreach programs target the importance of early detection and screening for several types of cancer, as well as improving public education on ways to prevent cancer.

In 2008, the Cancer Institute took over the direction of the New Jersey State Cancer Registry. One of only 20 registries in 16 states designated and funded as part of the NCI Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results program (SEER), the collected cancer statistics serve as a local and national resource for epidemiologic studies into the causes, treatments and outcomes in patients with cancer.

The Cancer Institute hosts two educational forums each year that brings together leading experts in the field of cancer research. Additionally, a full spectrum of education and training programs for physicians, nurses, and scientists, including residencies in oncology specialties is offered.

-----------------------------------------------Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. These centers are characterized by scientific excellence and the capability to integrate a diversity of research approaches to focus on the problem of cancer. They play a vital role in advancing towards NCI's goal of reducing morbidity and mortality from cancer.

This piece does not represent the views of the National Institutes of Health.