MORRISTOWN, NJ - The Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Atlantic Health System offers a free workshop and information session on one of the most exciting new discoveries and treatments for cancer: immunotherapy.  Frankly Speaking About Cancer: Your Immune System & Cancer Treatment is open to patients, caregivers and the community to learn and discuss how the immune system interacts with cancer, which treatments are currently available, as well as ones in development, and how side effects, which are different from traditional chemotherapy, are managed.  

Immunotherapy is a revolutionary cancer treatment available at Atlantic Health System that boosts the body’s own natural defense system so it can kill cancerous cells. This approach has proven effective for treating some forms of melanoma of the skin, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma.  Immunotherapy is also showing good results in clinical studies for treatment of breast cancer, colon cancer, brain cancer and head and neck cancer.     

“Over the next few years, immunotherapy will become a major part of treatment for all types of cancers and, relatively speaking, the use of standard cytotoxic chemotherapy is likely to diminish,” says Eric Whitman, MD, medical director of the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center and Overlook Medical Center in Summit.  “The most exciting thing is watching tumors, such as melanoma of the skin, that were previously untreatable and fatal, now ‘melt away’ during immunotherapy treatment,” adds Whitman who is also director of the Atlantic Melanoma Center.  “Immunotherapy can be life-changing.”  

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Unlike chemotherapy, immunotherapy medication does not directly destroy cancer cells. Instead, it helps the patient’s immune system recognize and attack cancer. This is accomplished in a variety of ways, depending on the type of cancer being treated. Some of the most successful drugs to date, called “checkpoint inhibitors,” specifically block cancers from hiding from attacking immune cells. Research continues to determine which immunotherapy drugs or combination of drugs work best for different cancers.

Immunotherapy available through Atlantic Health System physicians at Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center, Chilton Medical Center, Newtown Medical Center and Hackettstown Medical Center, includes cancer vaccines, immune checkpoint inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, non-specific immunotherapies, and oncolytic immunotherapy.   Many of these treatments are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of cancer, and some are available through the clinical study process.  

“While traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can cause nausea, fatigue and hair loss, the side effects of immunotherapy may be uncommon, depending on the type of drug used,” says Whitman who has been treating patients for melanoma of the skin with immunotherapy for more than ten years.  “What’s more, these medicines may continue to help the immune system over time even after treatment is completed, providing long-lasting protection against recurrent cancer.”

Frankly Speaking About Cancer takes place on Monday, November 14 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center on the Morristown Medical Center campus, Auditorium B, 100 Madison Avenue, Morristown.  Parking is available in the JCP&L garage.  Use the visitor entrance of the garage and enter at the Cancer Center.

For more information or registration, call Cancer Support Community Central Jersey at 908-658-5400, x113 or email centralnj@cancersupportcnj.org or visit www.cancersupportcnj.org/program-registration.  

The program is provided through unrestricted educational grants to Cancer Support Community from Bristol-Myers Squibb.