Titles and Affiliations

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

Research area

Investigating novel antibody drug conjugates for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) caused by mutations in the BRCA genes. 


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is so termed because it lacks the three most common targets for breast cancer treatment (estrogen and progesterone receptors and HER2 protein). Lacking these common therapeutic targets, there are limited treatment options for TNBC and an urgent need for more effective treatments . Dr. Bertino is pursuing new therapeutic targets in order to develop effective treatment options with minimal toxicity for patients with TNBC. One of these targets is matriptase, a membrane-bound protein known to play role in tumor initiation, progression, and metastasis that is found on BRCA-driven TNBC cells. Dr. Bertino's team has developed an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) that binds to matriptase on TNBC cells and then delivers a toxic drug that kills the cells. In their laboratory studies, they have shown that a matriptase-ADC shrank TNBC tumors and had no side effects presumably because it does not significantly bind to normal cells. Further studies will help to develop and test novel ADCs to provide treatment alternatives for patients withTNBC. 

Progress Thus Far

Dr. Bertino has demonstrated that the matriptase-ADC has a potent tumor celling killing effect in TNBC and in combination with other drugs that cause DNA damage (such as cisplatin and olaparib), enhanced the anti-tumor effects of the drugs in TNBC cells. In the last year, his team developed a second generation ADC using a novel toxin that binds to tumor DNA. 

What's next

Dr. Bertino and his colleagues will build on their findings and test the second generation ADC . They will then compare the second generation and first generation ADCs in combination with cisplatin and oloparib to determine the most effective treatment combination for treating TNBC. The results of these studies will determine the best ADC for future development and translation into the clinic.


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.


BCRF Investigator Since


Areas of Focus