Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey said Dec. 17 it received an anonymous philanthropic gift of $25 million. The donation will provide groundbreaking support for the Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence. This generous amount will support faculty recruitment, shared resource development, and cancer research to help scientists better understand the human immune response to cancer and ultimately develop the foundation for new treatments or make existing therapies more effective.
“At a time of great challenge, we are deeply grateful to be receiving one of the largest gifts from an individual in our history—and for such a life-giving purpose,” says Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway. “Already a national leader in cancer metabolism research, Rutgers Cancer Institute is poised to strengthen its focus in cancer immunology, and this gift will enable us to continue making scientific progress and expand our collaborations with industry, academia, and others to improve quality of life and survivability of a cancer diagnosis.”
Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are the first ‘three pillars’ and main treatment modes in the fight against cancer. Considered the ‘fourth pillar’ of cancer care, immunotherapy – a class of treatments that harness the body’s own immune system to fight cancer — has recently produced significant advances that are revolutionizing cancer treatment. Despite this progress, the most pressing challenge for cancer researchers is to understand why some people respond to immunotherapies and others do not.
With the support of this gift, investigators will accelerate laboratory discoveries pertaining to these disciplines into clinical treatments through more effective and efficiently designed clinical trials. These trials would be offered in conjunction with other cancer centers and collaborators such as the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium and made accessible to patients at RWJBarnabas Health facilities across the state.
“As New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute has been at the forefront of developing and delivering immunotherapies, which are helping patients with previously untreatable cancers live longer or be cured altogether. While there are great outcomes for many patients, we still strive to determine the basis for limited response rates in certain patients and how this can be improved,” notes Rutgers Cancer Institute Director Dr. Steven Libutti, senior vice president, oncology services, RWJBarnabas Health and vice-chancellor, cancer programs, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. “Through this transformational gift, we can leverage our expertise in the area of cancer metabolism to expand our efforts in immunology exploration, resulting in clinical trials and access to new and improved treatments.”
In collaboration with its research consortium partner Princeton University, Rutgers Cancer Institute is considered a foremost authority in the study of metabolism – the ability of cells to use nutrients and energy for sustenance – and how it contributes to cancer.
The gift also supports the recruitment of a co-director to lead the center along with Dr. White. Following a nationwide search, Dr. Christian Hinrichs, an expert in cancer immunology and immunotherapy was recruited from the National Cancer Institute. He will begin his new role in January. Additional new faculty to the center also will be supported through this gift.
The gift is part of an overall $50 million fundraising campaign, for which the aim is to secure an additional $25 million to further fuel the work of the Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence.