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Cooper announces cancer partnership with leading treatment, research facility

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George Norcross III, left, and Chris Christie speaking at the ribbon cutting for Cooper's medical school at Rowan University in a file photo from last year.
George Norcross III, left, and Chris Christie speaking at the ribbon cutting for Cooper's medical school at Rowan University in a file photo from last year. - ()

Gov. Chris Christie was expected to announce this morning a partnership between Cooper University Health Care and Houston-based MD Anderson Cancer Center, under which the pair would open their first jointly operated cancer center in October on the campus of the Camden hospital.

The two institutions said they've signed a letter of intent to create co-branded cancer centers in New Jersey, in a partnership that provides exclusivity for MD Anderson and Cooper in New Jersey, Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania for any future centers.

The cancer center would be set in a $100 million, four-story building with more than 100,000 square feet, according to a news release announcing the partnership.

"This groundbreaking partnership between MD Anderson and Cooper Cancer Institute will bring world-class treatment, care and research to New Jerseyans living with cancer," Christie said in prepared remarks. "I welcome MD Anderson to New Jersey and applaud their joint efforts with the Cooper Cancer Institute to defeat cancer."

Christie was scheduled to hold an 11 a.m. Statehouse press conference with George Norcross III, chairman of the board of Cooper, and Mary O'Dowd, state health commissioner.

Cooper and MD Anderson said in addition to their first center in Camden, they will expand the cancer center satellite hub on Cooper's Voorhees campus.

MD Anderson said it is a leading recipient of National Cancer Institute grants and treated more than 115,000 patients in 2012.

Cooper University Health Care includes the 600-licensed bed Cooper University Hospital, in Camden, with more than 500 employed physicians and 100 outpatient offices in southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Cooper Cancer Institute provides cancer prevention, screening, diagnostic and treatment services.

"This is a game changer for cancer care in our region," Norcross said in a statement. "We will combine the best cancer care in South Jersey with the number-one cancer program in the country to foster a remarkable opportunity for patients and families of our region."

Cancer rates generally are higher in South Jersey than in North Jersey, according to a 2012 report by the American Cancer Society’s New Jersey and New York chapter. According to the study, “To some extent, this difference can be explained by the lower lung cancer rates in the northern half of the state compared to the somewhat higher rates in the south.” The report estimates that 49,000 New Jerseyans received a cancer diagnosis in 2011, and more than 16,000 died from the disease.

Asked about the new cancer center plans, Blair Horner, vice president for advocacy, said, “Clearly South Jersey has a bigger cancer problem than North Jersey, and the idea of offering patients more options is certainly a helpful thing, from the patient’s perspective. The best thing New Jersey can do is to prevent cancer from starting in the first place, and where you see the big difference, South Jersey versus North Jersey, is in the area of lung cancer. The smoking rates in South Jersey are higher, and the governor could do a lot to boost state investments in tobacco control programs that would keep people from getting cancer in the first place.”

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