NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey says a proposed 12-story treatment and research facility needs to be built as soon as possible to keep up with the soaring number of patients diagnosed each year in the state.
Dr. Steven Libutti, who also serves as the senior vice president of oncology services at RWJ/Barnabas Health, made the comment at Tuesday’s meeting at DEVCO offices where he, Mayor Jim Cahill and DEVCO President Chris Paladino unveiled plans to construct a $750 million Cancer Pavilion.
The plan would also call for renovations to the existing Cancer Institute, a bridge connection from the pavilion to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and another bridge connecting the pavilion to the institute.
The Cancer Pavilion would comprise about 510,000 square feet and allow the institute to treat more patients in a state where 50,000 new cases of are diagnosed and 16,000 people die due to each year.
“We have run out of the space and capacity in our current location to serve those needs adequately,” Libutti said. “So this facility, this expansion is going to allow us to accommodate the patients that we’re seeing now and the patients we expect to see in the next 10, 20, 30 years.”
The plan unveiled Tuesday would call for the razing of the Lincoln Annex School on Somerset Street and the construction of the pavilion on that site. That location makes it ideal because of its proximity to the hospital and the institute, Libutti said.
The students in grades 4-8 who attend Lincoln Annex would be moved to the school district’s facility at 40 Van Dyke Ave. while a so-called replacement school is built on Jersey Avenue.
The City Council took the first formal step in the plan when it voted to approve a resolution that refers a redevelopment plan to the Planning Board for review and report. The Planning Board would turn its findings over to the nine-member Board of Education, which would have final say on the fate of Lincoln Annex.
Libutti said construction of the Cancer Pavilion would not only allow for the treatment of more patients, but to also allow doctors to treat them more comprehensively.
“Our vision is to build a state of the art facility that will treat the entire patient, care for that patient and their family and provide outpatient services in a seamless way from the first encounter with our health care providers through their therapy, their radiation therapy, any advanced imaging they need done and obviously blood work, etc – all done in location.
“But also inpatient care. So, if the patient requires admission to a hospital for cancer care, that will all be provided in one building. This essentially allows our teams to wrap themselves around the patient, that it’s seamless care from the outpatient to the inpatient back to outpatient again.”
For outpatient care, the plans call for 84 infusion bays, 74 exam rooms, advanced radiology, including four linear accelerators, diagnostic equipment including CT, MRI, mammogram and other equipment, core laboratory and pharmacy facilities and outpatient urgent care.
In regard to inpatient care, there would be 96 inpatient beds on four floors, a dedicated floor for surgical and procedure rooms, a central sterile processing area and inpatient support spaces.
Libutti said the pavilion would be a boost for the institute when it vies for the National Cancer Institute designation, a prestigious classification that’s pits 50 or so similar facilities across the U.S. against each other every five years.
“We have to compete against centers across the country every five years for this designation which brings some resources from the National Cancer Institute in the form of a grant to help support some of the functions that a comprehensive cancer center has to drive forward – clinical trials, basic research, translational research, which is bringing findings from the laboratory to the clinic and the infrastructure necessary to operate a comprehensive cancer center,” he said. “When we compete, they evaluate us against our peers and they look at what facilities help to enable us to best perform those functions that they consider critical to that designation.”
Paladino said that Cancer Pavilion would take 1,000 workers three years to build. Once up and running, 500-600 people – from phlebotomists to technicians to nurses to food service workers and more – would be employed in the facility.
“Many of them are probably seniors in high school or they’re in Middlesex County College or Vo-Tech or they’re at Rutgers,” Paladino said. “Something that’s really critically important that we’re going to do with respect to this to create opportunities is we’re going to work with Middlesex County College, work with Vo-Tech, work with New Brunswick High School and the P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) program, work with the Health Science High School to start job-readiness.
“Not only do we want to be able to afford as many local New Brunswick and Middlesex County people the opportunity to work here, but they also become the most reliable. They have a vested interest in the community and working in a facility that’s here with people who are their neighbors, helping treat their neighbors, helping deliver food, doing housekeeping, material management. It really does run the gamut. This is an entire ecosystem we’re building. So, it’s really exciting.”