Rutgers Cancer Institute recognized as a national powerhouse

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey was recognized once again as a National Cancer Institute designated Comprehensive Cancer Center — 1 of 50 in the United States.

Steven Libutti, the director of Rutgers Cancer Institute, says the recognition as a national leader comes with a $15.1 million grant over five years that will support the infrastructure that allows research to take place.

“In basic research, in clinical research, in translating our basic findings from the laboratory to patients,” Libutti said.

“When you get the re-designation, it’s an invitation that scientists come from all over,” said RWJ Barnabas Health President and CEO Barry Ostrowsky.

The institute is a leader in proton therapy, which is an extremely precise type of radiation that will be supported by the grant.

“It can be a very expensive technology. Access to this technology is difficult in many centers across the nation across the world. Because we are an NCI designated cancer center we have access to these tools that can be extremely precise and help protect nearby organs and tissues when we use radiation therapy,” said Dr. Rahul Parikh, medical director of the Laurie Proton Therapy Center.

Ten-year-old Grace Eline was treated with proton radiation.

“As of my birthday, Dec. 16, I was declared NED, which is no evidence of disease,” Eline said.

You may recognize Eline because she was a guest of President Donald Trump at this year’s State of the Union address.

“Every birthday since she was four, grace asked her friends to donate to Saint Jude Children’s Hospital. She did not know that one day she might be a patient herself. That’s what happened. Last year, Grace was diagnosed with brain cancer. Immediately she began radiation treatment. At the same time she rallied her community and raised more than $40,000,” Trump said during the State of the Union address.

“I think it’s good to be there, not just to be invited but being invited there for a very special cause,” Eline said.

Governor Murphy calls Grace his hero, and the two even swapped autographs. The pediatric cancer survivor was happy he was there, and hoped it inspired more people to donate to childhood cancer research.