Newswise — March 18, 2024 - Neptune, NJ - Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation is pleased to announce that Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health Children’s Cancer Institute at Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which will enable the expansion of pediatric clinical trials - critical tools in fighting pediatric cancer.

“We are so pleased that the Children’s Cancer Institute at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital was awarded this grant, a first, from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation that will allow increased access to critical clinical trials for our smallest patients,” said Vito Buccellato, MPA, LNHA, president and chief hospital executive, Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center. “We congratulate Dr. Jessica Scerbo and her team, and know this grant will go far in having a tremendous impact on our patients within our community.”

"Our pediatric experts make considerable efforts to advance care for our patients," said Kenneth N. Sable, M.D., MBA, FACEP, regional president, Southern Market, Hackensack Meridian Health. "St. Baldrick’s Foundation's generous support will help our team continue to provide the best and latest life-enhancing care for our youngest patients."

The infrastructure grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation will be used to hire a clinical research assistant which will allow the offering of pediatric cancer trials to more than double at the Children’s Hospital, located at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune. 

“What a wonderful show of support for our pediatric oncology program at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation,” said Harpreet Pall, M.D., MBA, CPE, academic chair and professor, Department of Pediatrics, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine chair, Department of Pediatrics, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital and regional chair, Pediatrics Southern Market at Hackensack Meridian Health. “Clinical trials are imperative to all oncology patients, and to be able to expand our clinical trials to more pediatric patients in our community is an accomplishment. This will allow us to provide convenience and added comfort and healing to our patients and their families, as they do not need to travel far.”

“This grant will provide a significant boost to expand our pediatric cancer research and help patients for years to come,” said Jessica Scerbo, M.D., principal investigator and chief, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital. “This position is vital in allowing us to increase the number of clinical trials offered which will allow these vulnerable patients and their families to remain closer to home while receiving the care they need and deserve.”

With this generous funding from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, five new pediatric cancer clinical trials have the potential to open in 2024.

“While we are excited and eager to take action, we must assure the necessary checks and balances are in place to deliver the highest quality and, most importantly, safest care to our smallest warriors,” said Dr. Scerbo. “With a dedicated clinical research assistant, we can streamline the meticulous process of monitoring, specimen collection and data processing needed for these important clinical trials. St. Baldrick’s Foundation shares our urgency in supporting high-impact clinical research to combat pediatric cancer.”  

The grant is part of $1.1 million in infrastructure awards made by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation in 15 states to advance pediatric enrollment in cancer clinical trials. The funding is designed to support these necessary roles to ensure more patients get treated through a clinical trial – often their best hope for a cure. The health care professionals who make those clinical trials happen are “unsung heros,” according to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the largest charity funder of childhood cancer research grants.

“We extend our heartfelt thanks to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for its generous support,” said Ellen Hahn, Director of Development, Children’s Health, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation. “This grant will further empower our pediatric oncology team to provide much-needed access to vital care our pediatric patients need and deserve, and we are so grateful!”

The pediatric cancer program at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital has expanded under the leadership of Dr. Scerbo. The program became the first affiliate of The Children's Oncology Group, a clinical trials cooperative supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the world's largest organization devoted exclusively to childhood and adolescent cancer research.

Dr. Scerbo and her team at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital, in conjunction with the team at Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital, located at Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center, are ranked in the top 50 for Pediatric Cancer Care according to U.S. News and World Report

About Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health

Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health provides the most comprehensive and highest level of quality care to young patients in the state of New Jersey. The children’s network is comprised of two children’s hospitals – Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack and K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune – and a large network of pediatric subspecialists and pediatricians throughout New Jersey, including a multispecialty practice and inpatient services at JFK University Medical Center in Edison. Both hospitals ranked #1 in New Jersey in the U.S. News & World Report 2023-24 Best Children’s Hospital Report for the third year in a row. The combined care programs at both hospitals were also nationally ranked among the top 50 for pediatric cancer, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, and urology, earning the most national recognitions ever for a children’s hospital in New Jersey. Visit to learn about Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health.

About Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation 

Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation, a registered 501(c)(3), is the philanthropic division of Hackensack Meridian Health, a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care. The foundation oversees fundraising for the network’s three academic medical centers, two children’s hospitals and seven community-based medical center foundations, as well as key initiatives, programs and services offered by Hackensack Meridian Health, including nursing support, behavioral health, children’s health, Hackensack Meridian Health’s Center for Discovery & Innovation and Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine.  

Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation has been designated as both a High Performer Overall and Healthcare System High Performer by the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) within their 2023 Report on Giving. 

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