Children’s Cancer Institute

When Dr. Michael Harris reflects on the evolution of the Children’s Cancer Institute at Hackensack University Medical Center, it is the stories of patients that come to mind. “These children and families are the most courageous individuals,” says Dr. Harris. One patient in particular was Naomi Cohain. Naomi Cohain was a beautiful, artistic teenager who shared her joy and passion for life with those around her. At the age of fourteen, Naomi was diagnosed with bone cancer. Through her battle, art provided comfort and a means for Naomi to express herself.

Naomi's Requests

Before she died, Naomi had two requests. First, Naomi wanted to donate her organs. Because of her disease, it was only her gift of vision – her eyes – that she could share with someone else.

To her, this was the most worthwhile gift of all. Naomi’s second wish was for Dr. Harris. She said, “Promise me that you will never stop trying to cure 100% of the kids.” Dr. Harris has continued to fulfill that promise.

We are the ONLY hospital in New Jersey with a pediatric bone marrow transplant program.

We established the first ever childhood cancer survivor program in New Jersey.

Our patients have access to over 100 clinical trials.

The pediatric cancer program at Hackensack University Medical Center officially began on June 29, 1987

This was a historic day because it meant that quality healthcare for kids with cancer would finally be available in New Jersey. Children would no longer need to travel to New York to receive treatment for their illness. In addition to the beginning of this new program, Hackensack University Medical Center was committed to having a significant pediatric presence. Today, there are nearly 50 pediatric specialties represented at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. Essential psychosocial support services exist throughout the Children’s Hospital. Additionally, with the inception of the Children’s Cancer Institute, research would become more vital then, and even more so, now.

As our team continues to build a comprehensive program for children with cancer, research remains at the forefront. Just as Naomi wished, curing all children of cancer is the ultimate goal.   In the meantime, Dr. Harris, shares, we must maximize the quality of life during treatment. “We never want a child to ask ‘why did you cure me?’” shares Dr. Harris. “There is a price to pay for aggressive therapies that leave scars on children.”

Although eighty percent of children are cured, childhood cancer remains the largest killer of children aside from accidents. Those who survive often face long-term side effects. The team at Hackensack University Medical Center strives to personalize treatment for our patients that targets the disease, not the body. Through research, we provide the most advanced, precision medicine and cutting edge therapies in an atmosphere conducive to healing.

To see our patients cured, to see them lead happy and healthy lives after cancer and to see them come back as adults to visit with their own children, that is the ultimate joy.


It is the patients and families that continue to inspire Dr. Harris and the clinical team at the Children’s Cancer Institute every day. “We have come many miles to the ultimate goal of curing childhood cancer with the least amount of harmful effects. By expanding our research, we are able to establish new programs that improve the care of children with cancer. To see our patients cured, to see them lead happy and healthy lives after cancer and to see them come back as adults to visit with their own children, that is the ultimate joy.”