Barchi, Robert DiPaola named most powerful healthcare players in New Jersey
In NJBiz's ranking of the "Power 50 Health Care List," NJBiz endorsed two members of the Rutgers community, including Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi, ranked 7th, and Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) Director Robert DiPaola. who clocked in at No. 27.
For the past few years, NJBiz, a business news publication in New Jersey, has been annually ranking the 50 most powerful players in the health care industry.
According to NJBiz, DiPaola, a professor of Medicine in Robert Wood Johnson Medical School alongside his work at CINJ, was noted for his work in leading the Precision Medicine Initiative, a treatment that cures cancer based on a patient's gene sequencing. The Precision Medicine Initiative was announced in President Obama’s State of Union Address in late January 2015.
The object of gene sequencing is to map out the nucleotides that make up the genomic profile of the patient so that the health care professional can compare parts of the genome to the standard genetic profile of the cancer, according to a previous article in The Daily Targum.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) designates 41 cancer centers throughout the country, based on excellence in research and the ability to bring researches to patients, DiPaola said. CINJ is the only NCI-designated cancer center in the state of New Jersey.
NCI is partnering with the University Cell and DNA Repository to conduct gene sequencing, as well as developing its plan to grow particularly on the Newark campus to serve larger populations in New Jersey, DiPaola said.
“I think the ranking speaks to the fact that Rutgers Cancer Institute is continuing to grow,” he said. “Many new initiatives are important for the health care of New Jersey."
DiPaola said CINJ has multidisciplinary clinics, such as the Precision Medicine Initiative, for different types of cancer as long as ongoing clinical trials and research initiatives help the patients and the public.
“For anybody with rare and resistant cancers, we’ve been making it available and we are now trying to work with additional partners in the state to grow that and reach all patients,” DiPaola said.
After the patients get their tumor sequences, he said experts can identify abnormalities in the genes that cause the tumors to be cancerous. From there, a group of about 30 researchers and experts will meet and guide the therapy, called molecular tumor board.
“There are drugs becoming available, called targeted agents that will target a particular individual’s cancer abnormality,” DiPaola said.
An example of cancer DiPaola said he and his colleagues are dealing with is melanoma, an aggressive skin cancer.
Approved targeted agents can be used when it is abnormal. When it is not, the target agents are not effective, DiPaola said.
With the Precision Medicine Initiative, DiPaola said experts screen multiple gene abnormalities and guide therapy based on those abnormalities.
“What we are going to do is that we give not just one targeted agent, but multiple targeted agents to patients in a prescribed plan that target their specific combinations of gene abnormalities,” DiPaola said.