Researchers at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey are part of a new multimillion-dollar project looking at new drugs and genetic links to tumor development.

Scientists at the cancer institute will work with experts at the National Cancer Institute’s Intramural Center for Cancer Research on a two-year project supported by $4 million in grants, including $2 million in funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Experts aim to explore new drug developments along with how to advance existing drugs for the treatment of cancers that come from mistakes made in DNA repair, a natural process the body engages in when damaging chemical changes occur in DNA.

These changes can lead to gene mutations, some of which can be directly linked to increased risk for breast, colon, reproductive and other kinds of cancers.

Another focus of the research project will be to learn more about the genetics behind tumor development so scientists and experts can better tailor therapies for patients.

Genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 put women at a higher risk of developing breast or ovarian cancers and men at a higher risk of developing metastatic prostate cancer. Scientists have developed targeted therapies to treat these cancers after learning about the genetic links.

However, because the targeted therapies are not effective for everyone, researchers from Rutgers and the national center will come together to tackle these issues.

“This partnership will hopefully accelerate laboratory discoveries into clinical treatments that will benefit cancer patients across the nation,” Dr. William Dahut, National Cancer Institute’s scientific director for clinical research, said in a statement.

The Cancer Incidence and Mortality in New Jersey report, released by the state Department of Health in June, showed cases of invasive cancers among residents in 2014 were slightly down from 2013.

New Jersey dropped from fifth place to seventh among states in cancer rates, according to 2014 cancer statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

It provides treatment and educational resources to communities and patients at its New Brunswick and Newark locations.

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609-272-7022 NLeonard@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Previously interned and reported for Boston.com, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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