Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center
Saving lives through cutting-edge cancer research and treatment
For decades, cancer patients have been treated with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. However, recent discoveries have rapidly brought forward a whole new category of treatment called immunotherapy. These therapies unleash the body’s own immune system against cancer. Furthermore, recent research has shown that metabolism drives the body’s immune response to cancer.
At Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we have a secret weapon to use against cancer by leveraging these advancements. The Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence will harness this new understanding of cancer immunology and combine it with our world-leading expertise in cancer metabolism to make our own unique contributions to the field.
The Center of Excellence will provide the setting to combine and translate research in immunology and metabolism into new therapies by combining the work of its co-leaders, Eileen White, a world-recognized expert in cancer metabolism, and Christian Hinrichs, a recently recruited leading cancer immunologist with deep expertise in T-cell therapies for HPV-associated cancers and other epithelial malignancies. With their team at Rutgers Cancer Institute, they will improve and increase therapies available to patients; develop cutting-edge facilities to create and test new interventions; facilitate commercial and university collaborations; and transform the way we treat cancer.
There is no question that cancer immunology is being studied by researchers nationwide. But Rutgers Cancer Institute has the opportunity to bring a new and unique perspective to the table and truly transform the landscape.
The institute is home to a world-class group of researchers studying cancer cell metabolism. Led by Eileen White, deputy director and chief scientific officer at the institute, researchers in the Cancer Metabolism and Growth Program study cancer as a metabolic disease—how cancer cells grow by using energy and nutrients for sustenance.
Rutgers Cancer Institute recently recruited Christian Hinrichs to co-lead with White the Center of Excellence. Hinrichs is a leader in the field of cancer immunology. Joining Rutgers Cancer Institute from the National Cancer Institute, Hinrichs is recognized for his work on HPV+ cancers, having discovered personalized cellular and gene therapies to treat them. His laboratory research is focused on why these treatments work for some patients but not others.
The cells of the immune system also depend on their metabolism to grow and respond to invaders. What if scientists could target the metabolism of cancer cells and immune cells to inhibit the former and boost the latter? If researchers can integrate cancer metabolism with immunology, significant breakthroughs in cancer therapy will be possible.
That’s the goal of the Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence at Rutgers Cancer Institute, which seeks to bring cancer metabolism and immunology under one umbrella to increase research that leads to new therapies for patients; develop facilities to test new interventions; facilitate commercial and university collaborations; and bring forth a new day in cancer research.
The Center of Excellence is in a unique position to leverage its current expertise and resources to change the landscape of cancer metabolism and immunotherapy research. But further resources are needed. The recruitment of additional faculty will expand and deepen the Cancer Institute’s ability to impact the field. Launching an in-house certified Good Manufacturing Practice facility will allow care teams to quickly bring immunotherapy to cancer patients. Investing in core technologies and customized equipment will help researchers remain at the forefront of cancer research and solidify the Center of Excellence as a go-to partner for cutting-edge resources. Finally, seed money for research awards will generate new data to support applications for large-scale federal funding and spawn game-changing discoveries.
Now is the time. Not only will the Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence continue the momentum of research at Rutgers Cancer Institute but investing early in immunotherapy research will generate long-term grant support and sustained revenue sources. As an early leader, Rutgers Cancer Institute can solidify its standing as a research and treatment powerhouse, identifying new knowledge, preventions, and therapies, and ultimately increasing the quality of life and survivability of cancer diagnoses.
Big Ideas are driven by faculty, staff, and researchers across disciplines, divisions, and locations. Project champions represent the robust, expansive, and highly collaborative project teams whose work will bring these ideas to life.
Steven K. Libutti MD, FACS
Director, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and Senior Vice President, Oncology Services, RWJBarnabas Health
Libutti was named director of Rutgers Cancer Institute and vice chancellor for cancer programs, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, in January 2017. He is also senior vice president of Oncology Services for RWJBarnabas Health; a tenured professor of surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; and an affiliated distinguished professor in genetics at Rutgers’ School of Arts and Sciences. Libutti’s clinical practice focuses on gastrointestinal malignancies, including cancers of the liver and pancreas. His research focuses on developing novel cancer therapies through an understanding of the tumor microenvironment. He is studying the interaction between tumor cells and the components of the tumor microenvironment. His work also focuses on a better understanding of the tumor suppressor genes MEN1 and FILIP1L. He is a leader in regional cancer therapy, the management of endocrine tumors, and tumor-targeted gene therapy. He is a past president of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, is the editor in chief of the Springer-Nature journal Cancer Gene Therapy, and holds seven U.S. patents.