Morristown, looking to accelerate breakthroughs in cancer therapies, opens expanded Infusion Center

Opening is phase 1 of 3-part plan to upgrade treatment, research at Carol G. Simon Cancer Center

Atlantic Health System will hold a virtual ribbon-cutting Tuesday night for the opening of the expanded and renovated state-of-the-art, patient-centered Infusion Center located in the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center.

The opening marks phase one of a three-part renovation and expansion effort Atlantic officials feel will accelerate access to breakthrough cancer therapies.

The Infusion Center. (John Emerson)

The Infusion Center, which provides intravenous chemotherapy, immunotherapy and biotherapy, is a critical component of Atlantic Health System’s ability to provide patients with access to the most promising and life-saving treatments, clinical trials and innovations in the communities where they live and work, Atlantic Health officials said.

When administered on an outpatient basis, infusions can last up to seven hours, during which time safety and comfort are of greatest importance. The new Infusion Center enables Atlantic Health System Cancer Care to offer more patients access to the latest, leading-edge cancer treatments in a caring and safe, state-of-the-art environment.

The need is there.

Between 2016-19, Morristown Medical Center’s outpatient Infusion Center saw a 40% increase in patient volume. Atlantic officials attribute this increase to three significant advances to their cancer program:

  • The recruitment of world-renowned physician researchers;
  • The launch of the nation’s first Breakthrough Oncology Accelerator, a pioneering research and clinical collaboration with the Translational Genomics Research Institute of Phoenix; and
  • The designation as the first New Jersey-based National Cancer Institute Oncology Research Program.

These three milestones allowed the cancer center to expand its portfolio of multiple early- and late-phase clinical trials.

The new space adds 12 infusion chairs, bringing the total to 36, which have been placed in a combination of open and private infusion bays, as some patients enjoy interaction, while others prefer a quiet, meditative space. Natural light, soothing colors and reclining chairs are among the features that promote the most healing environment possible.

The physical space reinforces patient-centered care by assigning each patient a dedicated team to accompany them during diagnosis, as they’re being treated and, afterward, into survivorship. The team and related support services are centralized, making it easy for patients to receive all their care in a single location.

Atlantic Health System Cancer Care Executive Director Lydia Nadeau and Medical Director Eric Whitman said they met with health care professionals and patient advisory groups for advice in the design process. Recliners for patients, a comfortable chair for family members, iPads, blanket warmers and music, pet and art therapy were all strongly recommended and are reflected in the new design, promoting a healing experience.

“As a result of our outreach, meetings and tours of high-level infusion centers around the country, we have synthesized best practices to create a unique, patient-centered facility that sets a new standard in infusion center care,” Nadeau said.

Whitman emphasized that safety was a top priority.

The pharmacy at the Infusion Center. (John Emerson)

“All COVID-19 safety protocols can be followed, and the layout of the new space helps ensure everyone’s comfort and safety,” he said. “We are excited to offer our cancer patients the most advanced clinical options and therapies in a technologically advanced and modern setting.”

The funding for the first of three phases of the new unit came in large part from donations made by community members in support of the Foundation for Morristown Medical Center’s Growing Forward Campaign.

Morristown Medical Center President Trish O’Keefe said the organization was grateful for the support.

“Because of our loyal donor support, we were able to expedite the expansion and renovation of the Infusion Center at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, ensuring high-quality support of our patients, their families and our incredible, award-winning clinical teams,” she said. “We are forever grateful to our community of donors for their tremendous generosity.”

While the Infusion Center is open to support patients, the fundraising to support the remainder of the renovation of the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center continues; $6.1 million of the $6.5 million philanthropic goal has been reached.