Patients with inoperable cancer looking to use the innovative NanoKnife technology no longer need to leave the state to get the procedure done.
Morristown Medical Center now offers the treatment, becoming the first hospital in the state to do so.
Dr. Aaron Chevinsky, chief of surgical oncology at Morristown’s Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, said he and three other surgeons at Morristown were trained in the NanoKnife and started doing procedures last October.
Chevinsky said NanoKnife attacks the tumor inside the body, in cases where surgical removal is too difficult or dangerous, including certain pancreatic, liver and colon cancers. The procedure, Chevinsky said, involves the insertion of thin probes that enable electric current to run through the tumor.
“(This) allows the pores of the cell to open up so fluid rushes into the cell, causing the cell the rupture,” he said. “(NanoKnife) does not harm any underlying (blood) vessels or ducts, so you can treat a tumor that surrounds a major vessel.”
NanoKnife is one of several procedures for treating inoperable tumors that Morristown offers, and a multidisciplinary team of oncologists works in concert to determine which procedure is right for each patient.
“Not everybody with (inoperable) cancer is amenable to this technology, and this is not the only thing we offer, but it is one more tool we have to deal with tumors from the earliest to the most advanced,” Chevinsky said.
Chevinsky said NanoKnife is available at a few hospitals in New York City and Philadelphia. Morristown is among a number of leading New Jersey hospitals that for years have been developing clinical programs that address the tendency of New Jerseyans to leave the state for advanced medical care.
“I think that if you offer something that is comparable or of better quality, locally and close to home, then people will certainly be drawn to it,” he said. “There’s a certain percentage of people in any area close to a major city that feel that they need to go to the city (for medical care).”
Chevinsky said those who seek care at Morristown will find “the most up-to-date, best care available.”
He said it makes sense for patients to travel a long distance for specialized care for a condition that is extraordinarily rare — but he said that is not the situation with most cancer cases.
“They are very common and we take care of them every day,” he said.
Among his patients is Deborah Keraitis, 58, of Lincoln Park, who underwent a NanoKnife procedure in February for an inoperable tumor in her liver; the cancer had originated in her colon.
Keraitis had never had a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer, and she is now an advocate for colonoscopies.
Chevinsky noted that it’s recommended that everyone have an initial colonoscopy at age 50, but he said less than half of Americans follow that advice.
“People are so resistant to colonoscopies and I guess I fell into that category,” Keraitis said.
She feels she is now in good hands.
“When I walked into the cancer center at Morristown, I felt: ‘This is the place that is going to help me; these people are trying to save my life,’” she said.
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