In his cycling shorts and cobalt-blue Century for the Cure bike ride windbreaker, Scott Glickman could be just one of the scores of riders who’ve assembled at Camp Riverbend in New Jersey’s Warren Township to raise money for the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Except that for Glickman, 50, the ride isn’t just charitable; it’s personal.
In 1997, nine months after the birth of his first child, Glickman was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer originating in the lymphatic system where tumors develop from the white blood cells known as lymphocytes. And it was at the Cancer Institute that he found an oncologist, and a supporting team of practitioners, who gave him the confidence to believe, he says, that “I was going to beat it.”
Glickman’s confidence was rooted in the sense that his oncologist, Roger Strair—the Cancer Institute’s chief of hematologic malignancies and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation—was fully engaged in his treatment, including a three-week course of high-dose chemotherapy, followed by the then-experimental drug Rituxan. Fifteen years later, Glickman remains asymptomatic.
Leading the Way
It was no accident that Glickman’s therapy was state of the art. Now affiliated with Rutgers, the Cancer Institute is a leader in cancer research and one of only 41 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the United States. Its association with NCI, says director Robert S. DiPaola, allows the Cancer Institute of New Jersey to bring “the highest level of care for cancer available, based on the rapid research discoveries that are happening day to day.”
An extremely high percentage of adult patients at the institute participate in clinical trials—15 to 17 percent, as opposed to the national average of 3. That means, says Susan Goodin, deputy director for operations and assistant director for clinical science, that patients at the institute are more likely “to receive new drugs with the potential to be better than what’s currently available.”
Patients may also benefit from the institute’s new Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), a personalized method of treatment based on the growing understanding that cancer isn’t one disease but a collection of many diseases and sub-diseases. Patients enrolled in this program—many of whom have rare cancers for which there are no standard treatments—have their tumors gene-sequenced to find the genetic abnormality that caused their particular cancer. “The initiative allows us to enroll patients in trials for new therapies that target their specific mutation,” says Goodin.
PMI is only one aspect of the individualized approach that marks the Cancer Institute’s personal approach to care. “You didn’t feel like a number,” says Glickman of his treatment. “They walked you through the process, emotionally and medically.”
Nine years ago, Glickman founded Century for the Cure, which started with 10 riders and has now raised more than $1 million to fund research at the institute. Founding the charity was a necessary way to give back. “I needed to do something to thank the Cancer Institute of New Jersey for the phenomenal care,” he says, “and for giving me life.”
The Race Is On