Andrew L. Pecora, MD
Andrew L. Pecora, MD, has been awarded the inaugural Rosemarie J. Sorce Endowed Chair in Innovation at Hackensack Meridian Health. The award is in honor of his lifetime achievements in medicine and, especially, cancer research and treatment. The award, which includes a $2.5 million grant, is also designed to further Pecora’s work in moving cancer treatment forward toward a cure, said colleagues who celebrated his accomplishments at a dinner March 7, 2017 at the 21 Club in New York City.
“Dr Pecora has been an incredible healthcare leader as a physician and as a researcher,” said Robert C. Garrett, co-chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian, who has worked with Pecora for more than 25 years. “This chair, which Rosemarie Sorce was kind enough to endow, is so well deserved because Dr Pecora is an innovator from the word ‘go.’ He’s been on the forefront of all the various fields that he’s been involved in.”
Pecora is the president of the Physician Services Division and chief innovation officer at Hackensack Meridian, the comprehensive New Jersey health network. He is the co-founder and past president of Regional Cancer Care Associates, a network of independent East Coast oncology practices. He is also a professor of medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, from which he received his medical degree, and a professor of oncology and medicine at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Additionally, he serves as editor-in-chief of Oncology Business Management
magazine, a publication of MJH Associates of Cranbury, New Jersey.
“The award is a wonderful honor because we are traditionalizing innovation and research, and I’m being acknowledged for my contributions, so on a personal level that’s incredible. For my institution, Hackensack Meridian Health, I’m so proud, because we are now on the world stage with some of the things we’re doing, and the journey has been a somewhat long one but a great one,” Pecora said.
Sorce is the office manager of Sorce Companies, a real estate management company based in Hackensack. She has a long record of public service and volunteerism in Hackensack, and she serves as a member of various boards at Hackensack Meridian Health and HackensackUMC, where she also chairs the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital Advisory Committee. She described helping the medical center fulfill its mission to the public as a passion and said she has tremendous respect for Pecora’s accomplishments and potential to add to his record of achievement. “Dr Pecora is innovative, he’s intelligent—actually, he’s brilliant—and I wanted to do something for the medical center as a legacy,” Sorce said. “The medical center is my passion. It’s from the heart.”
Andre Goy, MD, MS, who serves as chairman and executive director of the John Theurer Cancer Center at HackensackUMC, described Pecora as having both acumen and foresight not only as a physician but also as a businessman.
After starting at HackensackUMC in 1989 as director of the Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, Pecora helped to build that program into a national model of excellence. “Last year we did over 400 transplants; this year we’ll likely do 500, and we do a lot of cell therapy,” Goy said. “We’re the only ones picked by the National Cancer Institute to work on immunology and applied cell therapy to try to improve the outcome of bone marrow transplants and reduce complications and toxicity, and that was really an important step a few years ago. And we’re now doing gene therapy and modified chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy. This has been a really strong part of the innovation of the cancer center.”
At the same time, the cancer center has developed deeply subspecialized care in clinical research, and it has more than 450 drug trials open to patients. The clinical research includes a large phase I program with many first-in-human trials, Goy said. Their growing immuno-oncology program includes increased activity in applied immunotherapy in solid and liquid tumors.
Their work in autologous stem cell transplants—preserving a patient’s blood-forming cells for reinjection after oncological treatment—sets the cancer center apart, Goy added. “We have a trial going on right now where we do a combination of checkpoint inhibitors—using ipilimumab [Keytruda] and nivolumab [Opdivo]—both involving stem cell transplants, with quite interesting results so far.”