Cancer Centers Combine Expertise to Optimize Advanced Immunotherapy Strategies

Posted in News Release

WASHINGTON (June 3, 2014) — Physician researchers from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Washington, D.C., and John Theurer Cancer Center (JTCC) in Hackensack, New Jersey, announce today the formation of the Regional Immunotherapy Discovery Program.

The Regional Immunotherapy Discovery Program will accelerate discovery and implementation of a new immunotherapy approach, which combines the full potential of two potent strategies currently used in treating cancer: cancer immunotherapy and bone marrow stem cell transplantation.

“We are at the dawn of an exciting new era,” explains Louis M. Weiner, MD, director of Georgetown Lombardi. “The future of successful cancer therapy will rely heavily upon immunotherapy—the power of the immune system to recognize and destroy malignant cells, and then to remember and eliminate cancers that try to recur.”

Georgetown Lombardi, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, and JTCC, part of Hackensack University Medical Center, already offer the most advanced clinical trials available using investigational immunotherapy drugs. And both offer transplant programs that manipulate the immune cells via both allogeneic (donor) and autologous (patient) transplants to treat patients with blood cancers.

“By combining these two strategies in attacking cancer, we believe it’s possible to optimize the true promise of immunotherapy and extend treatment options to specific patient populations,” says André Goy, MD, MS, chairman of JTCC. “This approach is only now emerging at a very limited number of cancer centers in the U.S.”

One example of the new strategy would be to combine an immunotherapy drug such as a PD-1 inhibitor, which selectively unleashes immune cells, with an adoptive cellular therapy to assist reconstitution of the immune system following immune cell-depleting chemotherapy. This strategy is designed to deliver an overwhelming blow against a blood cancer.

In addition to the therapeutic impact, the Regional Immunotherapy Discovery Program has broad regional accessibility via physician researchers from Georgetown Lombardi in Washington, the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Network in Maryland and Washington, Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) with offices throughout New Jersey, and JTTC in Hackensack. This means cancer patients living in the northeast corridor between Washington and the New York metropolitan area will have easy access to state-of-the-art immunotherapy clinical trials and care.

Michael B. Atkins, MD, an internationally recognized expert in immunotherapy and deputy director of Georgetown Lombardi, and Andrew L. Pecora, MD, president of RCCA, will lead the program, which builds on an oncology affiliation that Georgetown Lombardi, a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated-comprehensive cancer center, and JTCC established in 2013. As part of the affiliation, the two institutions are working toward becoming an NCI-recognized consortium center, in which investigators from separate but collaborating scientific institutions contribute actively to the development and actualization of a specific cancer research agenda.


About John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center
John Theurer Cancer Center at HackensackUMC is among the nation’s top 50 U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals for cancer – the highest-ranked in New Jersey with this designation. It is New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive cancer center dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, management, research, screenings, preventive care, as well as survivorship of patients with all types of cancer.

Each year, more people in the New Jersey/New York metropolitan area turn to the John Theurer Cancer Center for cancer care than to any other facility in New Jersey. The 14 specialized divisions feature a team of medical, research, nursing, and support staff with specialized expertise that translates into more advanced, focused care for all patients. The John Theurer Cancer Center provides comprehensive multidisciplinary care, state of the art technology, access to clinical trials, compassionate care and medical expertise—all under one roof. Physicians at the John Theurer Cancer Center are members of Regional Cancer Care Associates one of the nation’s largest professional hematology/oncology groups. For more information please visit

About Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future. Georgetown Lombardi is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute, and the only one in the Washington, DC, area. For more information, go to

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis — or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization, which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.

About Hackensack University Medical Center
HackensackUMC, a nonprofit teaching and research hospital located in Bergen County, New Jersey, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state. This 775-bed facility has created an entire campus of care, including: the Heart & Vascular Hospital, the John Theurer Cancer Center, the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital, and the Donna A. Sanzari Women’s Hospital. HackensackUMC was listed as the number one hospital in New Jersey and one of the top four New York metro area hospitals by the U.S. News & World Report, and has received nine national rankings in: Cancer; Cardiology & Heart Surgery; Ear, Nose & Throat; Gastroenterology; Geriatrics; Neurology & Neurosurgery; Orthopedics; Urology; and the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital ranked as one of the Top 25 Best Children’s Hospitals for Neurology and Neurosurgery in the 2012-13 Best Children’s Hospitals list. HackensackUMC is among Healthgrades® America’s Best 100 Hospitals in 10 different areas – more than any other hospital in the nation, is one of Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals™ for seven years in a row, and received the Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence™ 11 years in a row. The medical center has also been named a Leapfrog Top Hospital, and received 19 Gold Seals of Approval™ by the Joint Commission – more than any other hospital in the country. It was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet® recognized hospital for nursing excellence. HackensackUMC is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls, and remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events. To learn more about one of the nation’s 50 best hospitals, visit: 

About Regional Cancer Care Associates
RCCA is a fully integrated multistate oncology/hematology clinical practice providing high quality clinical and research cancer care including diagnostic testing, in office and in hospital chemotherapy administration, radiation therapy, oncologic surgery and all stages of clinical trials (Phase I through Phase IV).  RCCA was organized under a single provider number (one practice) on January 1, 2012 from ten existing oncology and hematology practices from throughout the state of New Jersey.  RCCA was designed to offer patients integrated care delivery using a single set standard, based on evidence and accounting for cost of care, at all locations to significantly increase value based healthcare.  The practice currently includes 92 board certified oncologist, 15 nurse practitioners and over 600 employees distributed over 20 locations.  RCCA will care for over 25,000 new cancer patients in 2014. For more information: www.