News & Stories


Star-Ledger Editorial: Bringing the Best Cancer Care to Camden

Editor’s Note: The following editorial ran in the Star-Ledger on June 16, 2013.

Bringing the Best Cancer Care to Camden

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board

One of the nation’s top cancer centers will soon be coming to Camden, a huge score for investment, jobs and medical treatment in South Jersey — and for George Norcross, the political boss who brokered this deal.

Norcross is better known for his back-room style, but this is another example of the good he’s done in this poverty-stricken city. He helped bring in a regional police force to improve public safety after a year of record bloodshed, and a highly successful charter operator to bolster the schools. He expanded Cooper University Hospital, where he currently serves as chairman.

And now, he’s recruited MD Anderson Cancer Center of Houston, ranked No. 1 for cancer care by U.S. News and World Report, to run its cancer institute.

It’s a total win for Camden. This new treatment center will create hundreds of new jobs, including temporary construction work and permanent positions in the hospital. And it’s more than just a branding opportunity. Anderson will be completely in charge of managing the joint cancer center, bringing the kind of high-caliber doctors, medical care and research you’d normally find only in a big city such as Philadelphia or New York.

Some health experts, however, question whether New Jersey needs the extra cancer institute. We already have the New Jersey Cancer Institute in New Brunswick, and there are other top centers in neighboring states. Are there really enough underserved patients to support this added investment?

It’s a valid concern. But we can’t look down our noses at MD Anderson. This hospital is the top recipient of federal research grants in the country, and even edges out Memorial Sloan-Kettering for cancer care. This new partnership will bring more research money and clinical trials to New Jersey, which is good news for cancer patients here.

Certainly, we should make sure the two cancer institutes collaborate, rather than undermine each other by competing for funds and patients. The New Brunswick facility is soon to become part of Rutgers, thanks to the reorganization of our higher education system, which will help it pull in more of its own research grants.

It would be a far bigger boon for New Jersey, though, if it could also arrange its own full partnership with Anderson — a much stronger collaboration than any it might have with Cooper.

The total cost of the new Cooper treatment center is $140 million, which former Gov. Jim McGreevey started funding in 2002. About half this money is coming from the state, and half from Cooper. The cancer institute in New Brunswick, by comparison, is funded entirely by the state.

So if this new partnership at Cooper also enhances research opportunities in New Brunswick, the investment seems well worth it. Especially for cancer patients in South Jersey, who will have more top-notch treatment options close to home.