Joseph R. Bertino, MD

Joseph R. Bertino, MD

Chief Scientific Officer
Professor of Medicine & Pharmacology
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
New Brunswick, New Jersey

Area of Focus:  Treatment

2018-2019 PROJECT

Current Research:

  • Seeking to identify new therapeutic targets for treatment of breast cancer, particularly triple negative breast cancers.
  • Conducting laboratory studies to test novel drug formulations, alone or in combination with the other treatments.
  • These studies may provide targeted treatment options with minimal toxicity for patients with TNBC.
There are currently no FDA-approved targeted treatments for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), thus patients with this disease have few treatment options outside of chemotherapy. Dr. Bertino’s group has developed a novel drug that is showing promise in laboratory studies when combined with chemo- or immunotherapy.
Full Research Summary:

Triple Negative Breast cancer (TNBC) comprises as much as 20 percent of all breast cancers. These breast cancers do not respond to commonly used anti-estrogens or anti-HER2 agents and there are currently few therapeutic options. As this disease often has a poor prognosis, more effective treatments are urgently needed.

Dr. Bertino’s BCRF research is focused on developing a treatment for TNBC, using an antibody-drug conjugate. The therapy works by selectively targeting an enzyme called matripase found on TNBC tumor cells and then injects the cell with a potent toxin. Because the antibody is specific to TNBC cells, the toxin kills only the cancer cells, with little or no unwanted effects on normal cells.

In the last year his group reported that the antibody-drug conjugate decreased tumors without causing side effects in laboratory models. In the coming year, they will test the drug, alone or in combination with the other treatments. If results continue to be encouraging, they will be able to advance this novel treatment in the clinic to determine its clinical benefit in patients with aggressive breast cancers.


Dr. Joseph R. Bertino attended Cornell University and Downstate Medical School, SUNY. After internship and residency, he was a Fellow in Hematology and Biochemistry at The University of Washington. In 1961, he joined the faculty at Yale in Pharmacology/Medicine where he held several positions, including the first Director of Yale Cancer Center in 1973. He relinquished this position when he was awarded an ACS research professorship in 1975. He left Yale in 1987 for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he was Head of the Molecular Pharmacology and Clinical Investigation Program. In 2002, he joined the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey as their Chief Scientific Officer and a University Professor of Medicine & Pharmacology at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Dr. Bertino has received many honors for his work. He is a past president of AACR and ASCO, and was founding editor of the JCO. He continues to develop novel and treatments for cancer. He recently discovered a peptide that can regress E2F-1 oncogene addicted tumors, and is developing novel antibody-toxin conjugates to treat breast cancer.