Press Release

For Immediate Release
Mar 31, 2015
Contact : Donna Sellmann, Public Relations Manager  
(732) 840-3279
DSellmann@meridianhealth.com

Meridian Health Partners with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey to Expand Personalized Treatment Offerings to Patients

Precision Medicine Clinical Trial Focuses on Rare and Poor Prognosis Cancers  

New Brunswick, NJ - Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is joining forces with its System Partner Meridian Health in offering patients with rare forms of cancer or with cancer that no longer responds to standard treatment access to a clinical trial.  The research will use a process known as genomic analysis to identify abnormal changes in the genetic make-up (DNA) of the cancer.  The clinical trial is part of the ‘precision medicine’ initiative at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, which aims to tailor or ‘personalize’ cancer treatment for patients.  

The study will use directed sequencing of a set of known cancer genes to identify alterations in the DNA that have been acquired in each individual patient’s cancer sample. “The goal is to pinpoint what drives the growth of the cancer cells, identify these changes and patterns and explore therapies that specifically target these abnormalities to attack the cancer.  This technology coupled with the expertise of our investigators enables us to move beyond a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to treatment options for our patients,” says the trial’s lead investigator Shridar Ganesan, MD, PhD, associate director for translational science at the Cancer Institute and associate professor of medicine and pharmacology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Once abnormalities are identified, the findings are discussed at a weekly meeting of the Cancer Institute’s Precision Medicine Tumor Board, which is comprised of clinicians, basic scientists, systems biologists and those with computational expertise. The team can then decide quickly if the sequencing results suggest new therapy options, which could include treatment with a drug already approved to treat other cancers or diseases or treatment with a new drug that is being tested as part of another clinical trial.

“The multi-disciplinary expertise needed for such an initiative is available at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, as New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.  And with the participation of Meridian as our System Partner in this trial, we now have a greater ability to reach more patients across the state who can benefit from this research,” notes Cancer Institute Director Robert S. DiPaola, MD.

Within the Meridian system, patients will be referred from Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center, Riverview Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center, and Bayshore Community Hospital. “Our relationship with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey as a System Partner allows us access to cutting-edge clinical trial offerings that may only be available at National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers and their Network hospitals. Through the analysis being conducted by physician scientists at Rutgers Cancer Institute, we’re building hope for local residents as we  give Meridian clinicians an opportunity to offer new therapies and improve outcomes for our patients so that they can remain closer to home,” says Mark J. Krasna, MD, medical director of Meridian Cancer Care.

Study participants will have blood taken from a vein in their arm for examination.  They also will be asked to give permission for any tumor tissue taken from their cancer (through a previous biopsy or surgery) to be examined in the study.  

Individuals one-year old or older who have been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer or a cancer that is no longer responding to standard treatment are eligible to participate, though other criteria also must be met. The study is offered through the Cancer Institute of New Jersey Oncology Group (CINJOG), which is comprised of physicians throughout New Jersey from the Cancer Institute network of hospitals. For additional information on how to participate, individuals should call 732-235-8675.

Clinical trials and research studies underway at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey explore diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer, as well as management of cancer symptoms.  The Cancer Institute of New Jersey currently enrolls more than 1,200 patients in clinical trials each year, including approximately 17 percent of all new adult cancer patients and approximately 70 percent of all pediatric cancer patients. That compares with fewer than five percent of all adult cancer patients enrolled nationwide.  As New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Cancer Institute offers patients access to treatment options not available at other institutions within the state.  

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (www.cinj.org) is the state’s first and 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 848-932-3637 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 and Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center. Affiliate Hospitals: JFK Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (CINJ Hamilton), and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset.

About Meridian Health
Meridian Health is the only system partner of the prestigious Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center (NCI-CCC). The coveted NCI-CCC designation is only awarded to 41 centers in the nation. They investigate and share the nation’s very latest treatments and most promising clinical trials. Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization in New Jersey, comprising Jersey Shore University Medical Center and K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, Bayshore Community Hospital in Holmdel, and Meridian Partner Companies that include home health services, skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers, ambulatory care, ambulance services, fitness and wellness centers, and outpatient centers. In September 2014, Meridian Health and Raritan Bay Medical Center signed a Letter of Intent to merge.  In October 2014, Meridian Health and Hackensack University Health Network signed a Memorandum of Understanding to merge.  Meridian Health has consistently been rated among the top performing health systems in New Jersey for clinical quality, is one of the FORTUNE “100 Best Companies to Work For” for five consecutive years, and is the recipient of numerous state and national recognitions for patient care and nursing excellence. Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium alongside six of the nation’s leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies.  With more than 100 convenient locations, over 1,800 beds, nearly 13,000 team members, and affiliations with more than 2,000 of the area’s finest physicians, Meridian Health is a leading health care provider in New Jersey, providing quality health services, facilities, and programs.  For more information, please visit www.MeridianHealth.com.