At Astera Cancer Care, we’re dedicated to community-based cancer care. This means that we pursue the highest standards of care specifically in the service of the communities in which we practice medicine, live, shop and send our kids to school. In other words, we are not merely in the community but of it, and committed to it.
As a large and leading medical practice providing top-quality care for cancer, we’re doing our part to improve the lives and hope of cancer patients in Central New Jersey. But we also contribute in other ways, as a practice and as individuals devoted to this goal. This article is the first in a series highlighting the philanthropic contributions of Astera Cancer Care’s oncologists and other providers to cancer care, cancer-care support, and cancer patients in these communities.

Photo of Michael J. NissenblattA passionate, inspired and compassionate individual, Michael J. Nissenblatt, MD is a highly trusted, respected and sought-after medical oncologist at Astera Cancer Care. He is also one of its founders.
Residency-trained at Johns Hopkins and a clinical professor of medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University, Dr. Nissenblatt has been practicing for 30-plus years. In that time, he has been named a Top Doctor by New York Magazine, New Jersey Magazine and Jersey’s Best Magazine multiple times and has won numerous awards from the American Cancer Society, RWJ/Barnabas University Hospital and other organizations.
But his contributions to people with cancer extend well beyond his role as a reputable, caring cancer specialist at the forefront of his field.

Inspired to help others. Driven to make a difference. B

Specifically, Dr. Nissenblatt has participated in, energized and even founded a number of organizations that exist specifically to help patients in need, and cancer patients in particular.

In the 1980s, Dr. Nissenblatt and his wife, Marlene, attended this ACS fundraising event, which was raising a respectable $75,000 for cancer care each year from about 175 attendees. In the early 90s, Dr. Nissenblatt began working on the event’s Ad Journal, which soon was raising three or four times as much money for the charity.
By 1997, Dr. and Mrs. Nissenblatt were asked to be the event’s co-chairpersons and remain so today. The annual gala has become a must-go event, attracting 600 attendees and earning more than $500,000 for each of the last 3 years. It is the largest ACS event in New Jersey and one of the largest on the east coast.

In the late 1980s, Dr. Nissenblatt attended a funeral and noticed a charity box for a small fund founded by the decedent, the germ of inspiration. Later, he had a cancer patient who wasn’t doing well. He decided to give this person a loaf of Challah, the “bread of hope,” to help inspire her to get better. It worked.
Soon Dr. Nissenblatt was personally giving 18 to 20 loaves each Friday for the Sabbath, but not just to people of the Jewish faith. Patients who received the gift began offering to help, and one suggested incorporating the Challah Fund, Inc. to become self-sustaining. Since then, people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds look for to receiving challah each Friday. People understand bread as one simple necessity of life, and so they recognize that gift as a subtle message that there is hope for survival.
Today, Challah Fund volunteers deliver 130 Challah loaves each week to patients both in the Astera Cancer Care office and at local hospitals. The fund’s 10 volunteers represent four faiths, and the exchange of a few encouraging words, along with the gift of a basic nutrient of life given by strangers and funded anonymously inspires optimism and harmony. Founded and directed by Dr. Nissenblatt, the Challah Fund has distributed more than 200,000 loaves of the Bread of Hope.

Some 10 years ago, Dr. Nissenblatt received a request from a patient’s husband to have his wife, who had only a few days left to live, transferred to RWJ University Hospital so that her family could be by her side. Two weeks later, Dr. Nissenblatt received a check for $10,000 from the husband as startup money for a foundation to help patients with financial hardship pay for transportation costs and other unexpected and uncovered medical expenses.
In 2009, Dr. Nissenblatt, along with Mr. and Mrs. Richard Anslow, created this foundation, which has since then funded transportation costs, costly medication copays, equipment purchases, needed home-mobility upgrades and more for many patients.

This charity, founded by Dr. Nissenblatt, exists to help support Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in its mission to provide exceptional cancer services, including comprehensive care and care-navigation services to patients and their families. The goal is to support patient navigation, patient support, psychosocial services and patient survivorship.

Sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Nissenblatt and the East Brunswick Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Charitable Foundation, from 2005 to 2015 this program offered $2,000 scholarships each year to three or four postgraduate students pursuing careers in healthcare. The focus was “to bring compassionate medicine to the bedside.” The scholarship was awarded to more than 15 students who embraced and brought the human spirit and human touch to healthcare.

Dr. Nissenblatt after participating in the 2019 NYC Marathon.

Dr. Nissenblatt after participating in the 2019 NYC Marathon. This year he raised $36K for Fred’s Team, placing 8th out of the 930 runners that participated to raise money for cancer research.

A runner who has competed in and completed the New York City Marathon 18 times, Dr. Nissenblatt joined this team of 900 NYC marathoners some years back to help raise money to fight childhood leukemia. He has generated and contributed more than $350,000 in donations.
At Astera Cancer Care, we are proud of Dr. Nissenblatt’s contributions not just as a leader in medical oncology but also as a dedicated, passionate, philanthropy-minded person whose compassion and commitment are always front and center.

To support Dr. Nissenblatt’s charitable efforts:

  • Contact Michael Nissenblatt, MD via email:
  • Make an online contributions to Fred’s Team:>enter “Nissenblatt” into “participant” box
  • Make contributions to other charities:
    c/o Michael Nissenblatt, MD
    J2 Brier Hill Court
    East Brunswick, NJ 08816

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