Nearly 20 years have passed since Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) first opened its doors in the Garden State. Since then, an explosion of knowledge and data has resulted in far better outcomes for thousands of people with cancer, including many who’ve sought care at MSK’s facility in New Jersey. Today at a ceremonial ribbon cutting event, MSK reaffirms its dedication to New Jerseyans with MSK Monmouth — a new, 120,000-square-foot treatment center devoted solely to cancer care.
“The opening of MSK Monmouth reinforces our long-standing commitment to the residents of New Jersey,” said Craig B. Thompson, MD, President and CEO of MSK. “We are deeply moved and appreciative of the welcome we have received from the county, Middletown Township officials, and the surrounding communities, and we look forward to welcoming patients very soon.”
The new Middletown location is MSK’s second freestanding outpatient treatment site in the state — the first, MSK Basking Ridge, opened in 2006 — and is easily accessible from the Garden State Parkway. It is home to a robust clinical program and adjacent state-of-the-art data center that encompasses an additional 50,000 square feet. And, for the first time, outpatient surgical procedures will be offered at MSK outside of Manhattan.
MSK Monmouth features the most innovative technologies available, including highly sensitive imaging tests such as PET, CT, MRI, and ultrasound; precise radiation tools including image-guided radiation therapy and intensity-modulated radiation therapy; advanced pathology testing, including the latest molecular diagnostics for personalized medicine; and immunotherapy, an emerging field of significant importance in cancer treatment.
The modern facility at 480 Red Hill Road offers services to address almost every aspect of cancer care, including chemotherapy and medical oncology; surgical consultations, presurgical testing and outpatient surgery; screening tests such as mammography; a neuro-oncology program; access to hundreds of MSK clinical trials, including many phase I studies; genetic testing; and support counseling. MSK Monmouth is expected to open for patient care on December 12, pending final approval from the New Jersey State Department of Health.
Team Approach to Care
MSK Monmouth offers the same level of exceptional care and patient experience as in Manhattan.
“Delivering the same high caliber of care and experience to patients in their community continues to be an institution-wide focus, and MSK Monmouth is a shining example of the commitment we made 20-plus years ago,” said José Baselga, MD, PhD, MSK’s Physician-in-Chief and Chief Medical Officer. “Our strong ability to offer patients a personalized treatment plan, robust and efficient testing, and compassionate care and treatment near the comfort and familiarity of their home is the experience our staff strives to provide every day.”
Patients will benefit from multiple initiatives and programs to ensure a seamless and personal experience, including the opportunity to have their case reviewed by MSK’s expert disease management teams (DMTs). Comprised of medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists, the DMT model allows physicians to stay fluid and adjust to approaches as necessary. It sets MSK apart from other hospitals because of the deep expertise of the entire MSK team that, when combined, has decades of experience treating people with cancer successfully, all while keeping patients’ best interests top of mind.
Another pillar of strength is the experience MSK physicians have in treating more difficult and rare cancers. “What may be considered uncommon or rare in the overall medical community is usually not so uncommon or rare at MSK,” said Dr. Baselga. “We have specialists in diseases that most community medical centers are not able to treat with the same level of expertise. We often have more familiarity in dealing with the disease and its complications and in deciding which therapy may be most appropriate. In addition, we understand better the toxicity of those therapies and can manage patients through them. That also takes judgment and experience.”
MSK’s ability to provide such seamless, specialized care is paramount as the aging population continues to grow. In the United States currently, 60 percent of people who have cancer are 65 or older — as are 60 percent of cancer survivors.
“Today, almost 20 percent of the patients in our care are from Monmouth County and surrounding communities, and many are baby boomers,” said Richard Barakat, MD, FACS, Deputy Physician-in-Chief for the Regional Care Network and MSK Cancer Alliance. “We understand how incredibly important it is to this population to bring our resources directly into their community. At MSK Monmouth, we intend to continue to help care for our existing patients from the area as well as open our doors to others.”
Firsts: Outpatient Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine
For the first time, MSK is offering outpatient surgery outside of Manhattan, including interventional procedures, excisional biopsies, breast conservation therapy (lumpectomy) for breast cancer, sentinel node biopsies, axillary node dissections, and endoscopy services. The addition of ORs at MSK Monmouth gives local patients even greater access to MSK care while easing the burden of travel. The ORs are equipped with the most advanced technologies available, specialized staffing, and dedicated space for patients and caregivers to rest and recover post-procedure.
MSK surgeons, many of whom have long-standing practices in Manhattan, will care for patients with gynecologic, breast, head and neck, thoracic, and gastrointestinal cancers and will offer consultations at MSK Monmouth most days of the week. Patients whose treatment requires more complex surgery combined with an overnight stay can still meet with their surgeon and complete all pre- and post-op care at MSK Monmouth. Surgeries requiring a multi-night stay will be performed in Manhattan.
“This is a modern-day house call,” said Elizabeth Jewell, MD, Regional Surgical Director for MSK Monmouth and MSK Basking Ridge, and a resident of Fair Haven. “We are bringing the highest quality of care, renowned experts, and technological advances right to our patients’ front doors. It’s so fulfilling to give back to my community.”
MSK Monmouth is also home to MSK’s first dedicated rehabilitation program outside New York City, providing the same level of quality care, consistency, and experience patients have come to expect. The rehabilitation suite features the newest equipment and physiatrists experienced in the care of muscle and nerve complications from cancer and its treatments.
“Certain cancer treatments can affect people’s coordination, balance, strength, endurance, flexibility, or range of motion, ultimately hindering their ability to manage ordinary tasks like carrying a bag of groceries or climbing stairs,” said Theresa Gillis, MD, Chief of Rehabilitation Services at MSK Monmouth MSK’s rehabilitation experts help patients regain their strength, mobility, and functional independence through a collaborative, patient-centered approach designed to help improve quality of life during and after treatment.
“Rehabilitation is such an important component of treatment, and ideally is part of the plan from the beginning,” added Dr. Gillis. “Exercise helps people stay strong and active during their treatment, so they can return to work and continue to lead their lives to fullest extent possible. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to bring this specialized care, typically only available in large academic centers, to our newest site in New Jersey.”
Advancing Care: Access to New Treatments Not Available Elsewhere
For the past century, MSK has been a leader in cutting-edge research. Many treatments used today were born in MSK research labs and became part of practice-changing clinical trials.
Today, many MSK patients are benefiting from the access they have to our robust clinical trial portfolio, including early-stage studies of novel targeted anticancer drugs. At MSK Monmouth, patients can enroll in MSK clinical trials with the support of their physicians and oncology nurses. “Because clinical trials are so critical in moving cancer research forward, and because a therapy being tested in a trial may be the most effective therapy available, offering patients the opportunity to participate is hugely significant,” said Dr. Barakat.
The MSK Patient Experience
As Chief of Medical Oncology at MSK Monmouth, Jason Konner, MD, feels the patient experience is paramount. “This is world-class care made local and personalized. Our patients will experience the MSK culture of excellence and compassion, from the tranquil setting and helpful greeters to the variety of sub-specialized experts and attention to quality of life and symptom management,” he said.
When patients and caregivers arrive at MSK Monmouth, they are greeted and directed by staff who guide them to their appointment. Design and architectural elements of the space – which was designed in partnership with Perkins+Will – help promote relaxation and ease anxiety for patients and caregivers alike. Such touches include soft finishes and lighting, floor-to-ceiling views of the natural landscape, outdoor spaces, and décor including the work of local artists.
The common and waiting areas and physician offices were also designed to be spacious and comfortable, yet private. The infusion suite includes 18 rooms where patients can choose to watch TV, browse the Internet, or order lunch from local restaurants, as well as adjust the lighting and temperature with easy-to-use, built-in lounger-side technology. The individual spaces also feature floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors and seating inside and out for caregivers.
Caregivers and other visitors will also appreciate the many amenities offered on-site. Complimentary valet services and ample parking help save time; open and sunny waiting areas equipped with free Wi-Fi ensure they remain connected; and resting spaces in a library-like setting give them room to read or work, while remaining close by. A café offering freshly made seasonal selections, with plenty of seating, is also located on the concourse level.
The Data Center
MSK Monmouth also houses a new, tier 3 data center containing more than 1,200 servers. Located on the first floor of the north building, it provides a centralized location for much of MSK’s information technology needs. Information technology plays a critical role in almost every aspect of patient care, including entry of physician orders, storage of electronic medical records, supporting real-time access to clinical data during surgery, and appointment scheduling. The center also supports MSK’s telecommunications needs.
The new Middletown location gives MSK a much larger footprint, allowing relocation of hardware from locations in Manhattan and Lyndhurst, New Jersey, the former site of MSK’s primary data hub. The relocation was partially funded through an $8 million grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, an organization that provides resources to grow businesses in the state. As a result, MSK was able to relocate more than 100 staffers over the summer from its facilities in Lyndhurst and Manhattan, and also support continued job growth at the new site as the data hub continues to expand into 2017.
Sense of Community
MSK Monmouth will be home to more than 200 clinical staff members, and an additional 100-plus staff working in the data center, many of whom are longtime area residents, regular vacationers, or have family and friends in Monmouth, Ocean, and surrounding counties. Like Dr. Jewell, they are all proud and deeply committed to making an impact where they live and work.
“We want to support our community in whatever ways we can,” said Greg Mason, Administrator of Ambulatory Care at MSK Monmouth. “Our dedicated staff and groundbreaking new center are here to serve Monmouth and nearby counties with progress and unity top of mind.”
The facility will partner with local organizations to help raise awareness, build knowledge, and support outreach and education efforts, offering space for school and local not-for-profit groups to host community events. Additionally, MSK Monmouth will serve as an on-site conference space that will be available to local organizations for meeting purposes throughout the year.
For more information about MSK Monmouth, please visit www.mskcc.org/monmouth.