A landmark collaborative agreement on "bench to bedside" cancer care was signed Thursday by the heads of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.

Executives with both institutions call the collaboration a "strategic affiliation" bound to benefit the estimated 16,000 patients who are treated for cancer annually by North Shore doctors.

"This is a transformative affiliation for both institutions," said Bruce Stillman, president and chief executive of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Over the years the laboratory has produced countless breakthrough discoveries that have enhanced the understanding of cancer's molecular underpinnings.

Story$175M for more local cancer careSee alsoFind out how your hospital rankssee alsoFind top docs

He said one aim of aligning the laboratory's research expertise with North Shore's clinical prowess is treating the whole patient, not just the tumor.

The affiliation was signed by Stillman and Michael Dowling, North Shore's president and chief executive, during a morning news conference Thursday in the hilltop Wendt Building, which overlooks the laboratory's vast campus.

Dowling said North Shore's oncologists will make Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's promising research available as clinical trials to patients who would likely benefit from the therapy.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The two institutions described their agreement as a joint, long-term investment of $120 million directed toward basic and clinical cancer research, training and treatment-development. The sources of the multimillion-dollar funding were not disclosed.

Among the partnership's aims is increasing the corps of physician-scientists who conduct cancer research and treat patients.

"To me the timing is right," said Dr. Lawrence Smith, physician-in-chief and dean at North Shore-LIJ. "You need special partners and special moments."

@Newsday

The collaboration comes as rival cancer treatment and research giant -- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center -- continues its expansion on Long Island. It is enlarging its outpatient facility in Commack, operates a skin cancer center in Hauppauge and another outpatient facility in Rockville Centre.

For North Shore, the collaboration with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory marks another milestone in its emphasis on cancer care. Since 2013, it has invested more than $175 million to expand cancer treatment centers throughout Long Island and in New York City.

North Shore's Cancer Institute headquarters in Lake Success recently underwent an $84 million expansion, consolidating cancer treatment services for North Shore University Hospital and LIJ Medical Center under one roof -- a 130,000-square-foot, state-of-the art facility.

Dr. David Tuveson, deputy director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Cancer Center, said the Wendt's Hawkins Room was a fitting site yesterday for signing the agreement because it is where he and his researchers hold their "defeating cancer meetings once a month."

Tuveson, a researcher and oncologist who specializes in treating cancer of the pancreas, underscored the importance of speeding discoveries that emerge from the scientific bench to the bedsides of cancer patients.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"Every patient should have the right to enroll in a clinical trial," said Tuveson, who earlier this year announced that he and his team developed 3-D pancreatic "organoids." The infinitesimal, hollow specimens are grown from normal and cancerous pancreas tissue and are providing scientists with a deeper understanding of the gland in health and disease.

Pancreatic cancer remains one of the most vexing malignancies, Tuveson told Newsday earlier this year, because it is usually detected in a late stage and defies most available treatments.

Beyond Tuveson's work, the laboratory's researchers are working on treatments for a variety of cancers, including breast cancer, a disease whose prevalence remains high on Long Island.

Dr. Christopher Vakoc, a Cold Spring Harbor physician-scientist, is working on a possible breakthrough medication to treat the devastating and aggressive blood cancer, acute myeloid leukemia.