I am delighted to return to the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey as Embrace Kids Foundation Endowed Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. I am also a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Our Division is committed to providing outstanding care to children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer and blood disorders. My vision is for us to continue to advance the field through a combination of laboratory and clinical research, making treatments more successful and less toxic for our pediatric patients.
My perspective is shaped by my prior experiences and training. I studied medicine at Weill Cornell College of Medicine and completed my residency training in pediatrics at Mount Sinai Medical Center. My fellowship training in pediatric hematology and oncology was at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. While there, I also trained in laboratory science, working in molecular pharmacology under the mentorship of Joseph R. Bertino, MD.
My research efforts remain focused on developing new treatments to improve the lives of children and adolescents with blood disorders and cancer. My laboratory, funded by the National Institutes of Health, investigates why some patients suffer side effects of cancer treatment, while others do not. We have identified common genetic variants and specific dietary factors that increase the risk of experiencing side effects of anticancer therapies. In addition, we are working to develop interventions to reduce specific side effects, such as the loss of short-term memory or attention span (symptoms of “chemo brain”).
Clinically, I have been actively involved on a global level, in designing and conducting clinical trials for children diagnosed with leukemia or lymphoma, through my leadership or advisory roles in a number of cooperative groups, including the Dana Farber Cancer Institute Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Consortium; The Consorcio Latinoamericano de Enfermedades Hemato-Oncológicas Pediátricas; the Indian Pediatric Oncology Group; and the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). I am the vice-chair for COG’s Hodgkin lymphoma committee, and have led multiple COG clinical trials testing innovative, targeted combination therapy for adolescents and young adults with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma.
In all these efforts, my approach with patients and families remains heavily influenced by my mentor when I previously worked at Rutgers Cancer Institute from 1999-2007, Barton Kamen, MD, PhD. Bart taught me that we must not ever think that our job is to only treat diseases like cancer or blood disorders. On the contrary, our mission is to provide compassionate care to people -- people who happen to have serious diseases, who deserve a holistic approach to address the impact of the disease on their lives, and the lives of their families. Acknowledging that our current treatment approaches are imperfect, we have the obligation to endeavor to continue our research so that the next generation can experience even better outcomes.
Pediatric cancer; leukemia; lymphoma, and clinical trials