Developing the Next Generation of Cancer Drugs: How Does the Process Begin?

Scientific Leaders at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Lead a Key Discussion at National Meeting
March 23, 2010

New Brunswick, N.J.–  When people think of cancer treatment, chemotherapy infusions, injections and pills often come to mind.  These treatments result from extensive research and testing in drug development.  But how does the process begin? One avenue is through discussion and the sharing of ideas in a forum provided by the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program (CTEP). CTEP is hosting one of two major meetings in which distinguished basic science leaders, clinical investigators and others will gather to discuss the latest in early drug development.  Leading one of the sessions will be both the Director of The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ), and CINJ’s associate director for basic science. CINJ is New Jersey’s only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.  

The semi-annual Early Drug Development meetings are designed to enhance communication between the NCI and early-phase clinical trial investigators who are supported by CTEP.   Members of government, academia and the pharmaceutical industry attend, along with oncology healthcare professionals involved in early-stage drug development. 

A key topic to be covered in one of the meetings taking place this week is autophagy, which is described as a means of survival for a cancer cell through self-digestion.  CINJ Director Robert S. DiPaola, MD, professor of medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and CINJ Associate Director for Basic Science Eileen White, PhD, adjunct professor of surgery at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, are recognized experts in this area and will be leading this educational session.

Recent breakthroughs in this area of study have been discovered in the laboratory of Dr. White and her colleagues.  Last June, White and her team published findings in the journal Cell, which detailed the inner workings of the autophagy regulator, the p62 protein. The p62 protein is responsible for packaging damaged materials within a cell for delivery to the autophagy pathway and disposal, and the buildup of p62 in tumor cells is a marker for autophagy inhibition.  Since autophagy is a survival pathway for tumor cells, inhibiting autophagy monitored by p62 accumulation in cancer therapy as a measure of effectiveness is now being exploited for cancer therapy.

These latest laboratory findings have been translated into Phase I clinical trials at CINJ, which determine safe dosing levels for drugs. These trials are testing certain drugs that show properties that support or further enhance the autophagy process. “Further understanding the mechanism behind autophagy will help scientists better determine which drug compounds will work in tandem with that process.  By having the forum that CTEP provides to discuss such discoveries, we will continue to share ideas and further integrate such knowledge into collaborative study in this area,” said Dr. DiPaola.  He notes the autophagy discussion will feature experts from across the country, who will detail their latest work in this area and describe how it pertains to early drug development for cancer therapy.


About The Cancer Institute of New Jersey

The Cancer Institute of New Jersey ( is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and serving as an education resource for cancer prevention. CINJ’s physician-scientists engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life.  To make a tax-deductible gift to support CINJ, call 732-235-8614 or visit CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. 

The CINJ Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides a mechanism to rapidly disseminate important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Major Clinical Research Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Memorial Hospital, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Hospital, Cooper University Hospital and Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Affiliate Hospitals: Bayshore Community Hospital, CentraState Healthcare System, JFK Medical Center, Mountainside Hospital, Raritan Bay Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton (CINJ at Hamilton), Saint Peter’s University Hospital, Somerset Medical Center, Southern Ocean County Hospital, The University Hospital/UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School*, and University Medical Center at Princeton. *Academic Affiliate



Michele Fisher


precision medicine at Rutgers Cancer Institute







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