John Theurer Cancer Center Joins Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and Cancer Research Institute in Groundbreaking Collaboration on Cancer Antigens

December 13, 2016

John Theurer Cancer Center to serve critical role in global hunt for new personalized cancer treatments

The John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center, a member of Hackensack Meridian Health, is partnering with the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and the Cancer Research Institute as they launch a major collaboration focused on neoantigens, unique cancer markers that researchers believe may hold the key to developing targeted cancer immunotherapies. The John Theurer Cancer Center will be providing critical tissue necessary for the research to begin.

“We are thrilled to work with the Parker Institute and the Cancer Research Institute as they embark on this groundbreaking research project to accelerate the development of breakthrough immunotherapies that can effectively combat cancer,” said Andrew L. Pecora, M.D., FACP, CPE, chief innovation officer and president of Physician Services at Hackensack Meridian Health, who is recognized as an international expert in blood and marrow stem cell transplantation. “We are ready and eager to work with the top researchers and pioneers in the field to turn data into viable patient treatments.”

This new collaboration, the Tumor neoantigEn SeLection Alliance (TESLA), includes 30 of the world’s leading cancer neoantigen research groups from both academia and industry. The project’s goal is to help participating groups test and continually improve the mathematical algorithms they use to analyze tumor DNA and RNA sequences in order to predict the neoantigens that are likely to be present on each patient’s cancer and most visible to the immune system. In support of this, the Cancer Research Institute and the Parker Institute have partnered with renowned open science nonprofit, Sage Bionetworks, to lead the bioinformatics and data analysis.

“As one of the largest centers of cancer care in the nation, the John Theurer Cancer Center is engaged in many of the leading combination immunotherapy trials built around a collaborative model of innovation,” said Andre Goy, M.D., chairman and director of the John Theurer Cancer Center. “This is a transformative time in cancer research, and our participation in this collaboration further illustrates our deep commitment to immunotherapy research that will ultimately lead to better care and treatments for cancer patients.”

The neoantigen collaboration is the latest example of the groundbreaking work that the John Theurer Cancer Center is involved with in the field of immunotherapy. The cancer center has been a leader in the development of many new immunotherapies that are currently available and several different immunotherapies that are still in development. Through a joint discovery program called the Regional Immunotherapy Discovery Program, an alliance between the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the John Theurer Cancer Center, the cancer center has been able to contribute to the advancement of immunotherapy research in an effective and purposeful manner. The Regional Immunotherapy Discovery Program is at the forefront of producing clinical evidence that the immune system can harness to eradicate malignant cells, improve overall survival and potentially cure patients with otherwise incurable cancer.

The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy was launched in April 2016 to encourage collaboration between many of the nation’s best scientists, clinicians and industry partners to lead an unprecedented cancer immunotherapy research effort. The Parker Institute’s goal is to accelerate the development of breakthrough immunotherapies capable of turning cancer into a curable disease by ensuring the coordination and collaboration of the field’s top researchers and quickly translating their findings into patient treatments.


The John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center is New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive center dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, management, research, screenings, and preventive care as well as survivorship of patients with all types of cancers. The 14 specialized divisions covering the complete spectrum of cancer care have developed a close-knit team of medical, research, nursing, and support staff with specialized expertise that translates into more advanced, focused care for all patients. Each year, more people in the New Jersey/New York metropolitan area turn to the John Theurer Cancer Center for cancer care than to any other facility in New Jersey. Housed within a 775-bed not-for-profit teaching, tertiary care, and research hospital, the John Theurer Cancer Center provides state-of-the-art technological advances, compassionate care, research innovations, medical expertise, and a full range of aftercare services that distinguish the John Theurer Cancer Center from other facilities.


Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care. Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 13 hospitals, including two academic medical centers, two children’s hospitals and nine community hospitals, physician practices, more than 120 ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, and urgent care and after-hours centers. Hackensack Meridian Health has 28,000 team members, more than 6,000 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The Network’s notable distinctions include having one of only five major academic medical centers in the nation to receive Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award for five or more consecutive years, the number one hospital in New Jersey as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, recipient of the John M. Eisenberg Award for Patient Safety and Quality from The Joint Commission and the National Quality Forum, a six-time recipient of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” one of the “20 Best Workplaces in Health Care” in the nation, and the number one “Best Place to Work for Women.” Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies.

The hospitals of Hackensack Meridian Health include: academic medical centers – HackensackUMC in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune; children’s hospitals – Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune; community hospitals – Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, HackensackUMC Mountainside in Montclair, HackensackUMC Palisades in North Bergen, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, Bayshore Community Hospital in Holmdel, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, and HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley in Westwood.