MORRISTOWN, NJ – Atlantic Health System hosted a ribbon-cutting and tours of its new Breakthrough Treatment Center located in the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center on Wed., Sept. 25. Medical oncologists, nurses and physician researchers gathered for the official launch of the advanced specialty unit specifically dedicated to groundbreaking Phase I clinical trials and cancer research.

“What we’re building is an incredible cancer program here. With our community support, our doctor support and our staff support, today we officially open our Breakthrough Treatment Center, which is our Phase I unit,” stated Dr. Eric Whitman as he delivered opening remarks to those gathered in the lobby of Carol G. Simon Center. Whitman is a surgical oncologist and medical director of Atlantic Health System Cancer Care.

The Breakthrough Treatment Center is part of the Breakthrough Oncology Accelerator (BOA), which combines Atlantic Health System’s cancer care with the medical research of Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to offer the latest immunotherapies, cell-based therapies and genetic medicine options to cancer patients who have not responded to other treatments. Also, in partnership with Origin Commercial Ventures, BOA has designed a new care delivery and financial model that enables health systems around the country to provide faster access to breakthrough cancer treatments to patients at a more affordable cost.

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“It was almost a year ago today that Brian Gragnolati introduced our brand new partnership with TGen to form the first-in-America breakthrough oncology accelerator right here at Morristown Medical Center,” remarked Trish O’Keefe, president of Morristown Medical Center. Gragnolati is president and chief executive officer of Atlantic Health System.

“This pioneering partnership has enabled us to focus on delivering groundbreaking, novel research to patients right in our community,” O’Keefe added.

The goal of the Breakthrough Treatment Center is to open trials quickly to offer new treatments to patients, advance the science and technology of cancer care and conduct trials in a safe, welcoming environment.

“We treat all patients with advanced cancers and use all kinds of treatment,” said Dr. Angela Alistar, medical director of the Breakthrough Treatment Center who came to Morristown Medical Center from Wake Forest University two years ago. She is widely known for her pioneering research on pancreatic cancer, which has doubled the patient survival rate.

“Because technology and drugs are advancing so fast for clinical trials, clinical trials position patients for success,” Alistar said.

“Phase I drugs are revolutionizing cancer care. There are now drugs that go almost from the lab to approval. You almost don’t need later-stage studies. Because some of these drugs work so well initially, the FDA is able to approve them right away,” noted Whitman.

The Breakthrough Treatment Center, which began treating patients in the beginning of the year, has five treatment chairs. Open 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Mon.-Fri., the center typically accommodates eight to 14 patients daily, noted staff, and has treated approximately 60 patients overall.