Cancer takes the lives of some 7.6 million people worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. And while the upcoming World Cancer Day (February 4) will focus on a global message of cancer awareness and prevention, the importance of cancer research also will resonate.
Bringing cancer research to new levels is The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, one of the nation's 41 Comprehensive Cancer Centers as designated by the National Cancer Institute and the only such center in New Jersey. As a Center of Excellence of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, The Cancer Institute of New Jersey prides itself on the ability of its internationally recognized scientists to translate their research into new prevention and treatment initiatives.
For instance, investigators involved in the precision medicine initiative at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey are ready to embark on a genomic analysis project which could illuminate more paths toward developing personalized treatments for cancer patients. It is believed that some rare and poor-prognosis cancers that currently have limited treatment options may harbor genomic anomalies that may be treated with specific targeted therapies. Through next generation sequencing and data analysis of DNA in tissue samples, researchers aim to identify these changes in order to guide treatment and/or direct patients to specific clinical trials of novel agents.
The Cancer Institute of New Jersey is also one of the few cancer centers in the nation to have their own zebrafish laboratory. Investigators are using a transparent breed of this fish as a genetic model to study the pathways and genetic mutations involved in cancer development. Researchers at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey have long used these models in leukemia and lymphoma research. They also have begun using zebrafish to examine prostate cancer, having developed a unique way to graft prostate cancer tumor stem cells. In this model, cancer stem cells from biopsies of prostate cancer patients are transplanted into zebrafish embryos, and these embryo grafts are used to determine cancer cells' response to new drugs. This model is being expanded among U.S. cancer centers through the Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials Consortium.
Experts at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey available for comment include:
Shridar Ganesan, MD, PhD, is a medical oncologist and member of the precision medicine initiative at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and an assistant professor of medicine and pharmacology at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Ganesan, who is the lead investigator of the genomic analysis study mentioned above, specializes in the treatment of breast cancer and conducts research on genomic alterations underlying cancer development with a focus on DNA repair mechanisms and the BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene, which when mutated leads to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. He also works with investigators at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and the Institute for Advanced Study in analyzing next-generation sequencing data of cancer genomes.
Hatem E. Sabaawy, MD, PhD, is a researcher at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and an assistant professor of medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Sabaawy's laboratory is utilizing a form of zebrafish that remains transparent throughout its life. Through use of this breed, scientists have an enhanced ability to monitor and detect cancer development in aged fish.
The Cancer Institute of New Jersey