NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - On a dais of dignitaries that included Gov. Phil Murphy, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6), state Senate President Stephen Sweeney and others, a fourth grader stole the show.

Grace Eline, all of 10, shined the brightest Tuesday morning during an event to celebrate the redesignation of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey as the state's only national cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and a $15.1 million grant.

Eline spoke about her journey from the day she diagnosed with a brain tumor on May 2, 2018, through rounds of chemotherapy, through treatment at the Laurie Proton Therapy Center at Rutgers Cancer Institute and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital through her checkup last week.

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She said she received a diagnosis of NED - no evidence of disease - in December.

"I had a scan on Thursday," she said, "and everything came back clear."

When Eline was finished, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Assemblyman Louis Greenwald, President & CEO of RWJBarnabas Health Barry Ostrowsky and everyone else in the room gave her a standing ovation.

Her victories over cancer were a powerful reminder of the important work being done at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

In the interest of continuing that work, the institute, the state’s only Comprehensive Cancer Center as recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), has been awarded a $15.1 million grant as part of its successful 2019 redesignation.

The designation is held by only 50 such centers across the nation and is granted competitively to institutions characterized by the highest level of scientific excellence in cancer research and the ability to translate research discoveries into novel treatments.

In its comprehensive on-site review of Rutgers Cancer Institute programs, the NCI recognized the Institute’s treatment, prevention, education and outreach efforts as well as acknowledged its value as a collaborative matrix/consortium cancer center between Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and Princeton University.

“The awarding of this grant and redesignation by the NCI reaffirms the value Rutgers Cancer Institute provides to our state through research, treatment, prevention and education," Rutgers Cancer Institute Director Steven K. Libutti said. "Together with RWJBarnabas Health, we are committed to providing integrated, cutting-edge cancer care to those in New Jersey and the region."

“This long-standing collaboration between Rutgers and Princeton University is focused on reducing our state’s cancer burden through collaborative research, innovative treatment options, and emphasizing cancer prevention and education to residents across the state. As Governor, I am proud to have such a ground-breaking and forward-looking facility in New Jersey and confident that the work being done at Rutgers Cancer Institute will impact countless lives,"  Murphy said.

As a result of this relationship, scientific advances in the areas of cancer metabolism, metastasis and genomics have contributed to impactful clinical progress in areas such as precision medicine and immunotherapy. 

In this latest review, the NCI affirmed the entire state of New Jersey as Rutgers Cancer Institute’s catchment area and recognized its important work in cancer control – from prevention to survivorship – and transforming research data in these areas into interventions that not only serve the people of New Jersey but beyond.

Also highlighted were efforts by Rutgers Cancer Institute research members in examining tobacco regulation and the impact on tobacco control policies, as well as the support of public health initiatives – including the recently developed ScreenNJ initiative with the New Jersey Department of Health to enhance cancer screening, prevention and education activity. 

“Our commitment is to advance human health by all means, from delivery of state-of-the-art care to new discoveries to translating scientific discoveries into clinical advances. This commitment benefits the lives of our patients in New Jersey and beyond,” said Brian L. Strom, Chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and executive vice president for Health Affairs at Rutgers University.