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New Jersey Hospital Helps Pioneer Unique Personalized Immunotherapy for Metastatic Melanoma

June 5, 2019

Phase 2 clinical trial is testing TIL therapy against late-stage melanoma

Morristown, NJ – Atlantic Health System Cancer Care’s Atlantic Melanoma Center is among the nation’s leading cancer programs participating in the clinical trials of a new type of personalized immunotherapy known as TIL (tumor infiltrating lymphocyte) therapy, in which the patient’s own immune system cells are removed from his/her tumor, treated with an immune booster and then infused back into the patient, along with a medication that stimulates the immune system. Iovance Biotherapeutics is developing TIL therapy for solid tumors and is currently conducting the pivotal study innovaTIL-01 in patients with metastatic melanoma. Morristown Medical Center is one of the clinical sites for the Iovance study and is the first in New Jersey to treat a patient with this unique experimental therapy.

This leading-edge investigational treatment is undergoing Phase 2 clinical trials at Atlantic Health System medical centers for metastatic melanoma, a difficult-to-treat cancer if standard therapies fail. Atlantic Health System’s Morristown Medical Center is one of a select number of study sites across the nation, and the only site in New Jersey, approved to offer this experimental treatment to patients with Stage IV melanoma, as well as metastatic lung cancer and head and neck cancer. The study is being conducted by Iovance Biotherapeutics.

“Atlantic Health System Cancer Care is committed to cancer research,” said Eric D. Whitman, MD, FACS, medical director of Atlantic Health System Cancer Care, director of the Atlantic Melanoma Center and Principal Investigator at Atlantic Health System for the TIL melanoma trial. “In the last year, we opened more than 50 clinical trials for cancer. Over the past 20 years, our clinical trials have helped paved the way to FDA approval and new standards of care. We offer our patients clinical innovation, hope and healing.”

TIL (tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte) therapy involves five phases:

  1. Surgically removing a patient’s tumor, then taking some of the patient’s own immune-system cells (white blood cells called lymphocytes that have traveled to the tumor) from the tumor tissue;
  2. Growing the lymphocytes into billions of immune cells in the laboratory and treating them with an immune system booster called Interleukin-2 (IL-2);
  3. The patient then undergoes chemotherapy to deplete his or her body of its current immune system.
  4. After chemotherapy, the patient’s own cells called “TIL” are infused back into the bloodstream.
  5. After the TIL infusion, the patient is further treated with a short course of high dose IL-2, which stimulates the immune system to help the TIL attack remaining tumor cells.

“The general concept is that TIL replace less effective white blood cells and may be better at finding, attacking and killing the patient’s cancer,” said Dr. Whitman. “Within four weeks of a single treatment, we can see signs of efficacy in patients that respond.”

TIL therapy is currently an experimental, one-time treatment. Iovance plans on filing for approval with the FDA by the end of 2020. At the National Cancer Institute and in some recent trials, including at Atlantic Health System, TIL therapy has shown very promising results, giving hope to patients with melanoma and other cancers.

Learn more about this study and other clinical trials for skin cancer or watch a video about TIL therapy >

About Atlantic Health System Cancer Care

Atlantic Health System Cancer Care offers an unparalleled network of cancer specialists and resources for more than 6,000 patients annually through its flagship Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown and Overlook medical centers, as well as its comprehensive oncology programs at Chilton, Hackettstown and Newton medical centers. With more than 250 cancer specialists, all five hospitals and Atlantic Medical Group are designated Blue Cross Blue Shield ‘Blue Distinction Centers’ and have been recognized nationally for their role in advancing the fight against cancer. Morristown, Overlook, Chilton and Newton medical centers earned the coveted American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer Outstanding Achievement Award and earned Three-Year Approval with Commendation. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Atlantic Health System hospitals as high performing in colon cancer surgery, lung cancer surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, and pulmonology. Atlantic Health System Cancer Care is affiliated with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) of Phoenix, Arizona, and together they have launched the Breakthrough Oncology Accelerator, a pioneering research and clinical collaboration designed to improve patient access to the most innovative and sophisticated therapies for cancer.

About Atlantic Health System

Atlantic Health System is at the forefront of medicine, setting standards for quality health care in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the New York metropolitan area. Powered by a workforce of 17,000 team members and 4,800 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities, Atlantic Health System serves more than half of the state of New Jersey including 11 counties and 4.9 million people. The system offers 400 sites of care, including six hospitals: Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, NJ, Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ, Newton Medical Center in Newton NJ, Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, NJ, Hackettstown Medical Center in Hackettstown, NJ and Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, NJ.

In addition to the employed workforce, Atlantic Alliance, a Clinically Integrated Network represents more than 2,500 health care providers throughout northern and central NJ. This network includes 1,000 physicians and providers comprising one of the largest multi-specialty practices in New Jersey - Atlantic Medical Group, as well as members of the Atlantic Accountable Care Organization and Optimus Healthcare Partners, which work to enhance patient care delivery.

Atlantic Health System provides care for the full continuum of health needs, including 12 urgent care centersAtlantic Rehabilitation and Atlantic Home Care and Hospice. Facilitating the connection between these services on both land and air is the transportation fleet of Atlantic Mobile Health.

Atlantic Health System leads the Healthcare Transformation Consortium, a partnership of seven regional hospitals and health systems dedicated to improving access and affordability, and is a founding member of the PIER Consortium – Partners in Innovation, Education, and Research – a streamlined clinical trial system expanding access to groundbreaking research across seven health systems in New Jersey.

Atlantic Health System has a medical school affiliation with Thomas Jefferson University and is home to the regional campus of the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Morristown and Overlook Medical Centers and is the official health care partner of the New York Jets.