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Rutgers Cancer Institute and Univ. of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center Awarded $4.25 Million Grant to Develop Innovative Clinical Trials

New Brunswick, NJ, March 21, 2014 — Precision medicine, or the movement to ‘personalize’ cancer treatments, has grown significantly over the past few years, with researchers from large universities and cancer centers from across the nation making advances in identifying targeted therapies and understanding what drives them.

Aiming to further build on that momentum with the development of innovative early-phase clinical trials examining genomic and therapeutic biomarkers is Robert S. DiPaola, MD, director of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

Dr. DiPaola, who was just awarded a competitive $4.25 million grant (UM1CA186716) by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health to support the precision experimental therapeutics endeavor, will collaborate with investigators from the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center on the research that will have a nationwide reach.

For the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, this grant comes on the heels of the recent recruitment of Howard L. Kaufman, MD, FACS, as its new Associate Director for Clinical Science.  Dr. Kaufman — who most recently was director of the Rush University Cancer Center in Chicago — has extensive experience in developing clinical trial protocols and seeks to increase the scientific depth of studies developed at the Cancer Institute.  

“While NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers including Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey are making great strides individually with precision medicine research, collaborative efforts between such centers offer a synergy and access to resources that can further advance such exploration at a more rapid pace,” says DiPaola.  “By working together with colleagues at UW Carbone Cancer Center, we have enhanced opportunities to develop new mechanisms by which to guide more tailored therapies for patients.”

“This grant and collaboration between Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the University of Wisconsin exemplifies the importance of building bridges within and beyond our university to advance our research,” says Brian L. Strom, MD, MPH, chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.  “I applaud the efforts of Dr. DiPaola and his team at the Cancer Institute.”

The Cancer Institute and UW Carbone Cancer Center already have an established relationship, having jointly developed clinical trial protocols for the NCI’s Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program (CTEP) over the past five years.  The aim with this new initiative is to enhance scientific understanding and provide more trial opportunities to be offered through the CTEP program.

An existing collaboration between the Cancer Institute and RUCDR Infinite Biologics, the world’s largest university-based biorepository located within the Human Genetics Institute of New Jersey at Rutgers University, will allow access to cancer tissue samples for genomic analysis and sequencing. 

A long-standing relationship between the Cancer Institute and the Simons Center for Systems Biology at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton will augment the team’s ability to discover mutations and patterns and interpret results.  This grant also will support collaborations on imaging research with the Rutgers School of Engineering.

“The Wisconsin and New Jersey (WIN) Alliance in Precision Experimental Therapeutics is a great example of team science, as each institution brings forth unique strengths and resources can be combined to meet the challenges and needs for the NCI’s Early Therapeutics – Clinical Trials Network,” says Glenn Liu, MD, UW Carbone Cancer Center, who is the co-principal investigator on the grant with DiPaola. 

Through the CTEP program, the trials will have the ability to accrue patients not only from New Jersey and Wisconsin, but nationally, as the studies would have an opportunity to open at other cancer centers across the country.

Once trials are designed and offered to patients, extensive monitoring and evaluation by the Cancer Institute and UW Carbone Cancer Center team will take place in order that investigators can refine the studies.

Another aim of the initiative is to develop management approaches that will further streamline the clinical trial process and make it more efficient. The funding will support this work over the next five years and in particular will help strengthen the Cancer Institute’s emphasis on its clinical research program — including a major focus on clinical trials.

“Genomic analysis, identifying new biomarkers and other innovative advances in recent years have accelerated the pace of cancer discovery, thus making more information available than ever before,” notes Kaufman.  “By combining both research and clinical strengths, investigators can maximize this data in designing clinical trials with novel approaches.  This new grant will support our teams in doing just that.”

The initiative through Rutgers is among the first cancer research collaborations with a fellow member of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), the academic arm of the Big Ten Conference.

The consortium comprises 15 top-tier universities, including the University of Chicago, the members of the Big Ten and the Big Ten’s incoming members — Rutgers and the University of Maryland. Rutgers joined the CIC July 1, 2013, a year before its entrance to the Big Ten. CIC member universities engage in $10.06 billion in funded research each year.

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (www.cinj.org) is the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. As part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey is dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and to serving as an education resource for cancer prevention.  Physician-scientists at the Cancer Institute engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life.  To make a tax-deductible gift to support the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, call 732-235-8614 or visit www.cinj.org/giving.  Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheCINJ.

The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides the highest quality cancer care and rapid dissemination of important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. System Partner: Meridian Health (Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center, Riverview Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center, and Bayshore Community Hospital). Major Clinical Research Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center, and Cooper University Hospital. Affiliate Hospitals: JFK Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (CINJ Hamilton), Shore Medical Center, Somerset Medical Center, The University Hospital and University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.

About University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

The University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center is among the nation’s oldest cancer centers and became one of the first centers to become a federally-designated cancer center in 1973.  It has retained that distinction for more than 40 years and remains the only NCI-designated center in Wisconsin.  The Carbone Cancer Center includes 240 research members from more than 40 departments and more than 10 schools of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.