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A Salvage Treatment Jennifer Was Inspired to Salvage.

“From the start, I knew Fox Chase was the right fit for me,” says Jennifer Occhipinti, BSN, RN, a urologic oncology ambulatory care nurse. “I worked here as a medical assistant during nursing school, and my manager told me, “Pass your boards and get back here. This is where you belong.”

“Now, eight years later, this is my work home. Fox Chase is academically rigorous, clinically excellent, and built on providing compassionate care. Our patients probably have just gotten the worst news of their lives and need extra everything, which totally fits my personality.”

“When treating patients, I think of my father, who developed a cancerous tumor in his leg as a young man. His physician wanted to amputate it, but he refused and got a second opinion, undergoing extensive radiation, and surgery to remove the tumor. Thirty-two years later, he is still in remission.”

“Many individuals I meet are desperate for that ‘other way’ to treat their cancer. Fox Chase offers that hope because we have vast experience treating many common and rare cancers and a foundational commitment to translational research.”

A Salvage Treatment That Failed Some

To avoid bladder removal, patients with bladder cancer often opt for a salvage therapy, which combines gemcitabine and docetaxel. “I administer the medications into their bladder, which they must hold for 90 minutes. For some, 20 minutes is all they can tolerate since urine and gemcitabine are highly acidic and create a ‘hostile’ bladder. The therapy failed them, and I needed a way to fix it,” says Occhipinti.

In speaking with physicians, Occhipinti learned that sometimes, patients are given sodium bicarbonate tablets the night before and the morning of various urologic treatments to help neutralize the pH of the urine.

Occhipinti believed this could work for her patients and took the idea to Alexander Kutikov, Chair of the Department of Urology at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Dr. Kutikov advised that Jennifer socialize the idea with the treating Fox Chase urologists and then “run with it!" 

It Works!

Occhipinti’s first two patients receiving the two sodium bicarbonate treatments held their medication for the full 90 minutes. Then, eight more patients had the same life-changing result.

Christine L. Amoroso, BSN, RN, OCN, and Nurse Manager Rebecca Farrell, MSN, BSN, clinical manager at Fox Chase Cancer Center, encouraged Jennifer to write up the protocol for presentation at the 2022 ONS Annual Congress.

“I was nervous,” says Occhipinti. “But I went for it and was amazed by the overwhelming support that I received after the presentation. It empowered me to do so much more,” said Occhipinti.

There are now 24 Fox Chase patients on this protocol, and Occhipinti is thrilled that oncology nurses worldwide now have access to it for their patients.

“I feel I’m changing patients’ lives for the better, one treatment at a time.”