THE PEDIATRIC CANCER PROGRAM AT HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH’S K. HOVNANIAN CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL OFFERS A COMPREHENSIVE, MULTIDISCIPLINARY APPROACH
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS BY AMESSÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
The hematology and oncology experts at Hackensack Meridian Health K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center have placed importance on creating a comprehensive multidisciplinary program aimed at helping New Jersey’s pediatric patient population cope with a devastating cancer diagnosis or manage a chronic blood disorder. Equipped with state of the art evaluation and treatment modalities and a dedicated team, the hospital’s Pediatric Cancer Program provides 24/7 close to home coverage for patients in the Monmouth, Ocean, and Middlesex county region. Additionally, as part of the state’s largest and most comprehensive health network, experts have seamless access to the Children’s Cancer Institute at Hackensack Meridian Health Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital.
These exceptional resources offer local residents highly specialized expertise with a strong commitment to compassionate, personalized care. “At K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital, we are dedicated to treating each patient as a whole,” noted Dr. Jessica Scerbo, section chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital. “We provide all aspects of care, from diagnosis and treatment to long term follow up. All of our patients have access to both inpatient and outpatient services, including a pediatric intensive care unit, genetic testing, an onsite laboratory, state of the art diagnostic imaging services, and a team that continually encourages open communication with referring pediatricians.” Dr. Scerbo said personalized patient care has long been her passion.
I’ve always felt the job of a pediatric oncologist was an equal share of treating a condition and making a connection with the patient,” she explained. “I form a strong relationship with each of my patients. Because I see them so frequently, I get to know the entire family: mother, father, siblings, and grandparents. I am continually inspired by the courage and bravery that each and every one of my patients displays.”
The Pediatric Cancer Program at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital is run in collaboration with the Children’s Cancer Institute at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital, which for more than three decades has been a beacon of hope for children and families dealing with pediatric cancer in New Jersey. With more than 100 active oncology and transplant clinical trials currently open, the program is leading the charge to cure childhood cancer. And, given that cancers that were once considered incurable are now experiencing a survival rate of approximately 80 percent, and that several types of tumors now have cure rates in the high 90 percent range, Dr. Scerbo explained that a childhood cancer diagnosis no longer needs to be a bleak finding.
“I think the most common misconception in pediatric oncology is that the prognosis is always grim,” Dr. Scerbo said. “But it’s actually quite the opposite. The prognosis for the majority of children’s cancer patients is usually very good, and the patients are very resilient. Treatment can be difficult, but the patients in our halls are playing, dancing, singing doing many of the things they were doing before being diagnosed.”
Being part of the Hackensack Meridian Health network offers a variety of benefits to New Jersey patients. “Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital has a longstanding history of offering superior pediatric cancer care,” Dr. Scerbo noted. “As part of our tremendous network that care is extending to Ocean, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties allowing us to offer elite cancer care throughout the state. Partnering with Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital gives us the opportunity to offer cutting edge care close to home, to function as one team, and to provide a seamless transition to children who need additional services like bone marrow transplants, which is one of the many progressive treatment options that Hackensack Meridian Health has to offer.”
“There are many highly specialized treatments that are only available through this program,” Dr. Scerbo added. “We offer CAR T Cell therapy, for example, a rapidly emerging cancer treatment in which engineered T Cells are directed to attack leukemia cells. We also have neuro-oncology treatments not available anywhere else in the state, which puts us on the front lines of pediatric care in New Jersey.”
Led by neuro-oncologist Dr. Rohini Singh and neurosurgeon Dr. Lawrence Daniels, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital’s pediatric neurosurgery program provides a wide range of treatment options for children who suffer from brain and spinal cord conditions. Dr. Derek Hanson, a neuro oncologist at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital, runs a statewide pediatric neuro-oncology tumor board and leads vital research studies and clinical trials for the network.
“Dr. Singh and Dr. Daniels work in collaboration with Dr. Hanson, treating and removing tumors of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves right here in our own community, as well as identifying research studies and clinical trials that can further benefit pediatric patients,” Dr. Scerbo said. “Our multidisciplinary care team is able to utilize advances in surgical techniques, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy to care for pediatric patients with complex tumors of the nervous system. All three doctors play a pivotal role in a statewide neuro-oncology forum, which is a tremendous achievement for cancer care in New Jersey.”
Hackensack Meridian Health also offers a Pediatric Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Program the only one of its kind in the state. The organization’s extraordinary commitment to raising funds and awareness for pediatric cancer is fostered by the Tackle Kids Cancer initiative, which raises funds to benefit essential clinical care, unique support services, and groundbreaking research needed to find a cure. K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital recently received a generous gift to support the Pediatric Cancer Program, which included naming the patient care area in the new HOPE Tower as the Dorothy B. Hersh Foundation Center for Pediatric Hematology and Oncology.
“Having recently moved into this new space, we are very excited about the new healing environment that HOPE Tower offers our patients, and are grateful for the support of donors,” Dr. Scerbo noted.
HOPE Tower at Jersey Shore University Medical Center is focused on creating a healing outpatient environment. Pediatric hematology/ oncology is one of many pediatric and adult specialties now housed therein. The facility also features an academic and research center to teach and pioneer lifesaving medical breakthroughs, a state of the art cancer center with sophisticated technology and diagnostic imaging, laboratory, and pharmacy services for easy access for testing. HOPE Tower encourages collaboration and a multidisciplinary approach among physicians, nurses and other clinicians.
“Pediatric sub specialists in HOPE Tower provide diagnosis and treatment in a variety of areas: gastroenterology, endocrinology, infectious disease, neurology, and hematology/oncology,” Dr. Scerbo said.
Another key feature of K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital is its Child Life team, which offers medical procedure preparation and support from trained pediatric professionals that serve as advocates for children and their families.
According to Dr. Scerbo, it’s just one of the many services that is placing K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at the forefront of pediatric cancer care.
“We have an exceptionally talented team that is providing specialized, high quality care close to home for families who need it most,” she concluded.
See the sites listed below to learn more about the full spectrum of comprehensive children’s health and wellness programs, pediatric emergency services, and specialty care throughout the Hackensack Meridian Health’s statewide network.
Children’s Hospital Hackensack Meridian Health,
Jersey Shore University Medical Center
1945 NJ 33, Neptune City / 800.560.9990 khovnanianchildrenshospital.com /