A team from the William F. Connell School of Nursing, in partnership with Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), has developed a series of Certification for Nursing Education (CNE) training modules that will equip nurses with the skills and knowledge needed to care for patients undergoing immunotherapies to treat cancer.
Cancer immunotherapy harnesses the body's own immune system to attack cancers, and is a promising and rapidly growing area in cancer research and treatment. In one approach, drugs called checkpoint inhibitors are used to foil the "tricks" that cancers rely on to escape natural immune cell attack. In the other approach, known as adoptive cell transfer, patients' own immune cells are taken to the lab, made into efficient cancer killing "armies" and returned to the patient.
The three distinct SU2C-Boston College Immunotherapy CNE modules address the specific challenges of providing care for cancer patients receiving immunotherapy, including education on immunology and related pathophysiology, symptom management, and nursing interventions to reduce symptom distress and promote wellness. The pilot program will be available in July, with the others available later in the summer and fall 2016. The goal is to train 25 nurses working in immunotherapy in the first round.
CSON Professor Dorothy Jones is the leader on the project, with Associate Professors Jane Ashley and Jane Flanagan serving as project co-investigators. Associate Dean of Continuing Education Jean Weyman will facilitate the evaluation and awarding of CE credits at the completion of each module. BC alumna Patricia Arcari from Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston and Lauren Winters from the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center are project consultants.
"One of the benefits of this program is that nurses anywhere/everywhere will have the ability to learn cutting edge information about specialized cancer treatment modalities," said CSON Dean Susan Gennaro. "Nurses will also gain information to promote patient health and improve the management of patient's symptoms and responses to cancer treatment. Nurses, even if they are not affiliated with major cancer centers, will find these timely modules extremely useful. We are very proud to collaborate with Stand Up To Cancer on this much needed initiative."
"Nurses are essential collaborators in translational cancer research, bringing new and effective treatments from the research laboratory to the patient," stated SU2C President and CEO Sung Poblete. "SU2C is at the forefront of immunoncology research and we recognize that an essential part of bringing these cutting-edge therapies to patients is the effective dissemination of information about the treatments. Nurses play an integral role in patient management and these modules will provide a new toolkit for patient care."
SU2C's investment in patient and professional education is made possible by the donations of individual and corporate collaborators, including CVS Health, whose specialty pharmacy provides services for patients requiring treatment for rare and complex conditions, including cancer.
"Emerging immunotherapy drugs are showing great promise in treating a broad range of hard-to-treat cancers and are quickly becoming a critical component of care for many oncology patients," said Alan Lotvin, MD, executive vice president of CVS Specialty, the specialty pharmacy of CVS Health. "As these therapies gain traction in practice, we are also seeing the role of the oncology nurse expand, and we're proud to support the SU2C-Boston College CNE curriculum as it is designed to provide oncology nurses with practical, evidence-based tools to help them better support and care for their cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy."