Six years ago, Pennsylvania resident John Snyder learned he had melanoma, an aggressive type of skin cancer. By last summer, he was running out of options — and time.

“Nothing my doctors tried was working,” said John, 57. “It wasn’t looking good for me.”

His local physicians then delivered the hopeful news that researchers three hours away, at the Atlantic Melanoma Center at Morristown Medical Center, were testing an experimental therapy for cancer like John’s.

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The new therapy in Morristown, part of a promising field called “personalized medicine,” involves using part of a patient’s own blood to fight cancer and is available through a clinical trial known as “tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy.”

Designed to identify and replace less-effective white blood cells to attack and kill the patient’s cancer, “this therapy is intended for people like John, who have failed all standard forms of treatment and have run out of easy options,” shared Eric Whitman, MD, medical director of Atlantic Health System Cancer Care and principal investigator for that clinical trial.

John soon became one of the first patients in New Jersey to undergo this innovative treatment at Morristown Medical Center, one of a few sites in the nation to offer this ground-breaking treatment.

“Within four weeks of a single treatment, signs indicated that it was working well for John,” Dr. Whitman said. “His cancer isn’t growing or spreading; in fact, his tumors have shrunk almost completely.”

According to Dr. Whitman, Morristown Medical Center opened more than 50 clinical trials for cancer in the last year. Over the past 20 years, such trials have helped pave the way to FDA approval for new, exciting treatments for melanoma and other cancers.

“Even in late-stage cancer, patients should seek clinical trials that are appropriate for their specific disease,” Dr. Whitman said.

“The future cures for cancer are going to be totally different than they’ve been in the past, thanks to research and researchers like these,” John concluded. “So don’t ever give up hope.” 

To learn more about this study, please go to atlantichealth.org/research.