Jan. 8, 2018:

The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (Big Ten CRC) recently welcomed Salma Jabbour, MD, as a member of its Steering Committee, representing Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. The committee, composed of one representative from each member institution, meets on a regular basis to review activities of the consortium and decide matters of policy.

A radiation oncologist with a subspecialty in lung and gastrointestinal (GI) cancers, and a co-chair of the Big Ten CRC’s GI Clinical Trial Working Group (CTWG) and member of the Thoracic CTWG, Jabbour embodies the Big Ten CRC spirit.

“There are so many reasons to collaborate,” Jabbour said. “The first comes down to personal philosophy, which is that when we work together, the collaborative approach allows for a larger thought process, it allows for new ideas, feedback, and constructive criticism to make a concept better.

“The second reason to collaborate is that, when we work across institutions, there is the opportunity to have larger numbers of investigators and greater access to patients to enroll in clinical trials. That is important because research moves so quickly nowadays and clinical research is changing. Speed is important to be timely in answering research questions.

“Collaboration advances science more quickly while also strengthening participating institutions,” Jabbour continued. “When Rutgers, for example, works with Indiana, and Indiana then works with Northwestern, that partnership elevates us all, because we are moving our goals together faster and better. It is first investigator-to-investigator, and mentor-to-investigator and cross-mentoring, and then also working together as a group to accrue patients. Then, finally, the institutions in a larger sense working together to raise support for research and to elevate each other’s reputations. From a research and patient-care standpoint, just as it is from the sports standpoint, teamwork is important on so many levels.”

Originally from Maryland, Jabbour completed her undergraduate education at the University of Virginia, then returned to her home state for medical school at the University of Maryland. She completed her residency in the Department of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences at Johns Hopkins, and in 2006 she joined the newly formed Department of Radiation Oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

Growing up in Maryland with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) practically in her backyard, Jabbour had some unique early experiences in the field of medicine. “The NIH had various programs in which I was able to participate during high school,” she said. “I have some very good memories of working in the labs at a pretty young age. I enjoyed problem-solving and seeing my work get published, getting feedback on experiments, and learning.”

But for Jabbour, working solely in a laboratory setting left something to be desired. “You learn when you are in the lab that you do not get a lot of personal interaction,” she said. “It was exciting to do the science and to be asking questions that we were trying to solve, but it did not fulfill me in the sense that I did not get to work directly with patients and try to help people through difficult times.”

Helping people is more than a resolution for Jabbour — it has been her life’s desire and it is the reason she pursued medicine. “There are a lot of professions in which one could help others,” Jabbour said. “But medicine combines all of the things I desire in terms of science, research, and working with people. I find it very fulfilling that we can ask questions and try to answer them to see if we will help patients.”

Jabbour treats patients with lung and GI cancers, and conducts research that aims to improve patient outcomes and cure rates. “My clinical research, some of which involves clinical trials, generally asks how we can help patients get better by using radiation, and on the flip side of that, how we can reduce the side effects of radiation,” she said.

Jabbour is embedded in a strong and productive institution. “As the State’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey has a very wide breadth of research programs that are ongoing,” she said. “The ones most clinically relevant to what I do are immunotherapy, precision medicine, and radiobiology.”

Jabbour is a perfect fit for the Big Ten CRC. In short, she gets it. “The Big Ten CRC is efficient, and brings to the table institutions that are individually very strong and have world-renowned investigators. It brings the best and the brightest together to advance patient care and clinical trials.

“The Big Ten CRC is specifically designed to be nimble, flexible, and very competitive in the modern world of oncology clinical trials,” she continued. “It is not wedded to old ways or held up in bureaucracy.”

As an active participant in the Big Ten CRC since its formation, Jabbour said she is excited to contribute to the consortium’s continuing development. “I’m very excited about this new role and look forward to helping move the Big Ten CRC mission forward, grow the group, and create opportunities for additional clinical trials. … At the end of the day we are here to help patients get better, improve cure rates, and improve cancer outcomes.”


About the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium: The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium was created in 2013 to transform the conduct of cancer research through collaborative, hypothesis-driven, highly translational oncology trials that leverage the scientific and clinical expertise of Big Ten universities. The goal of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium is to create a unique team-research culture to drive science rapidly from ideas to new approaches to cancer treatment. Within this innovative environment, today’s research leaders collaborate with and mentor the research leaders of tomorrow with the unified goal of improving the lives of all patients with cancer.

About the Big Ten Conference: The Big Ten Conference is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching and public service. Founded in 1896, the Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in the lives of students competing in intercollegiate athletics and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness. The broad-based programs of the 14 Big Ten institutions will provide over $200 million in direct financial support to almost 9,500 students for more than 11,000 participation opportunities on 350 teams in 42 different sports. The Big Ten sponsors 28 official conference sports, 14 for men and 14 for women, including the addition of men’s ice hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse since 2013. For more information, visit www.bigten.org.