Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health Children’s Cancer Institute Now a Member of the Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC)

August 11, 2021

Partners in Developing Therapies for Brain Tumors 

The Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI) is now a member of the Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC.) The CCI, whose pediatric cancer program is ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report, joins an international group of consortium member hospitals in the United States which includes Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“This is a very important recognition of the work done by the Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health pediatric cancer sub-speciality teams,” said Judy Aschner, M.D., physician-in-chief, Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health. “It will ensure that we not only remain a force in innovative neuro-oncology research in New Jersey, but that we become collaborators on a global level with other hospitals throughout the country and world in advancing the PNOC goal of developing new therapies for children and young adults with brain tumors.”

The Children’s Cancer Institute met the criteria for admission because, like other participating hospitals, it has:

  • Specialists in different areas of pediatric brain tumor treatment – such as oncology, neurosurgery, and radiation therapy – who combine their expertise to optimize care for each patient;
  • Care teams made up of nurses, social workers, psychologists, and hospital staff with an in-depth understanding of the needs of families and children suffering from brain tumors;
  • Finally, each site has scientists actively engaged in laboratory research on pediatric tumor biology who work with clinicians to turn their findings into therapies.

Brain tumors are the most common solid tumors in children. The Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC) was formed to provide children with brain tumors access to innovative treatments through clinical trials. The clinical strategies behind these trials are based on the investigation of the molecular and genetic makeup of brain tumors.

“PNOC is the premiere research group for pediatric neuro-oncology. This is a huge step forward for our program as it will essentially triple the amount of brain tumor trials that we offer and provide cutting edge, individualized treatment to our patients based on the biology of their brain tumors,” said Derek Hanson, M.D., section chief, Pediatric Neuro-oncology, the Children’s Cancer Institute and director of Research at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.

“Our participation as a PNOC hospital site is tremendous,” said Mark Sparta, FACHE, president and chief hospital of Hackensack University Medical Center. “This will allow our Children’s Cancer Institute to provide the most cutting-edge treatments to children and their families. Patients will no longer have to leave the state to seek treatment.”

“Membership in the Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium brings our program to the next level,” said Ihor Sawczuk, M.D., FACS, chief research officer and president of the network’s Northern Region. “This is an example of the network’s doctors and researchers pushing the scientific envelope for patients of all ages, to treat all conditions.”

The news of the admission into consortium coincides with news of a soon-to-be opened pediatric neuro-oncology laboratory – the first of its kind in New Jersey – at the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI.)

The laboratory of Timothy Vogel, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon, and Dr. Hanson, M.D., was made possible through Tackle Kids Cancer, a major successful fundraising effort run in collaboration with the New York Giants.

Drs. Vogel and Hanson are undertaking work that includes research into treatments for rare brain tumors, specifically embryonal tumor with multilayered rosettes (ETMR). These tumors are exceptionally aggressive, and usually affect children younger than four years of age. Patients stricken with this type of cancer generally have very poor prognosis, with typical survival rates no longer than six months to a year following diagnosis.

The Neuro-oncology Section of the Children’s Cancer Institute is a program of the Pediatric Hematology-oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant/Cellular Therapy Division. The division provides care to patients with cancer, blood disorders and immunodeficiencies at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital. This year, for the second consecutive year, the Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health pediatric cancer program was ranked among the Top 50 in the country by U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospital Report.

Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC)
The Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC) is an international consortium, with study sites in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Europe, India, Israel, and Australia. PNOC is dedicated to bringing new therapies to children and young adults with brain tumours, using the latest scientific understanding to inform a personalised medicine approach.

PNOC comprises 225 leading specialists in childhood brain cancer and is currently driving sixteen international clinical trials. In Australia, the organisation collaborates closely with the Australia and New Zealand Children’s Hematology / Oncology Group (ANZCHOG). PNOC’s research is substantially supported by the PNOC Foundation, the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, and other not-for-profit entities