NEW BRUNSWICK – At a time when healthcare, access to healthcare, research, innovation, drug trials and jobs are the hot topics of discussion, the proposed collaboration project of a free-standing comprehensive cancer pavilion touches upon each aspect, Chris Paladino, president of the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) said.
“There are so many ways to frame the reach of this project,” he said, whether from the 56,000 new cancer cases a year to the ability to bring state-of-the-art cancer care clinical trials and multi-discipline research to thousands of additional patients.
Paladino was one of many speakers during a virtual press conference announcing the project on May 6. The other speakers included Ronald Rios, director of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Barry Ostrowsky, president and chief executive officer of Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Barnabas Health, Steven Libutti, director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Mark McCormick, president of Middlesex County College (MCC), and James Cahill, mayor of New Brunswick.
Middlesex County – in partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, RWJBarnabas Health, DEVCO, and New Brunswick – is investing $25 million in the new cancer pavilion project, which totals $750 million.
The investment, which officials said is supported with a AAA bond rating, is part of a long-term strategic plan and partnership with leading regional and national organizations to continue to create a powerful health and education ecosystem in the county.
“At the core of every decision we make at Middlesex County is a focus on innovation, which stems from fostering strong partnerships with leading organizations across government, educational organizations, and the private sector, as well as investing in our residents,” Rios said. “The announcement today is emblematic of the continued commitment we have in the health and life sciences sector. Even amid a pandemic, the county has a rare opportunity to provide resources for forward-looking projects that build a strong foundation for enhancing the health and life sciences talent pool through best-in-class education from our partners.”
Libutti said the new center patient structure will “create the safest, most efficient environment for integrated cancer care and delivery.
“The new cancer pavillion will allow for the consolidation of key cancer services in a single location including those for chemotherapy and radiation therapy as well as major diagnostic modalities,” he said. “And more importantly, the facility will afford inpatient capacity with the ability to keep cancer patients separate from those battling other illnesses and this facility will serve as a hub and anchor for our widespread cancer program across all the sites of RWJ Barnabas healthcare system.”
Libutti said the ability to translate scientific findings from bench to bedside and back to the laboratory in one location will provide “our physician scientists more immediate feedback on the results of our clinical trials.”
Another core pillar of the project is the education and training of the next generation of researchers and clinicians with the new partnership with Middlesex County College and Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools, Libutti said.
“[The education and training will] help foster innovation and discovery and provide an environment filled with robust educational prospects for Middlesex County residents,” he said.
Libutti said as they find themselves in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has shown a free-standing cancer pavillion is of critical importance to the state and region more so now than ever before.
“With such a unique cancer delivery system offering inpatient care in conjunction with world class treatment fueled by onsite research along with unique education opportunities all in one footprint enables us to enhance level of care for our patients and ensure the oncology health care workforce is best prepared,” he said.
Ostrowsky said the project shows commitment of its health care system to bring world class clinical care together with great education and research to those communities they serve.
“We fully expect when completed this institution and pavillion will be a national designation for the care for those who have developed cancer,” he said.
McCormick said the partnership will afford MCC students “unparalleled access to a wide range of learning opportunities at a world class oncology center from clinical and internship placements to research experiences.”
He said MCC looks to continue to build on the collaboration with RWJBarnabas Health and provide training for employees at the cancer pavillion including development of several new degrees and certification programs to meet the employment needs at the site.
The New Brunswick Board of Education approved an exchange of land agreement with DEVCO on May 5 for county officials to build the new patient and family-centered cancer pavilion where the current Lincoln Annex School on Somerset Street is located.
Cahill said the county received support from Lincoln Annex School parents.
The property at 50 Jersey Ave. has been donated for the new school location, according to Ostrowsky.
The proposed cancer pavilion will be a 12-story structure of more than 510,000 square feet. It will feature the state’s only oncology inpatient hospital and a consolidation of services and the space will also feature research laboratories.
Demolition of the site will occur in later September, early October, Paladino said.