When cancer is your diagnosis at any age, being referred to the most knowledgeable doctors makes a world of difference. These medical experts are prepared, equipped and ready to guide you through life-saving decisions, helping you navigate and manage the complexities of the cancer journey.
One widely-respected expert is Jonathon B. Cohen, M.D., M.S., a board-certified hematologist and medical oncologist. Cohen also serves as associate professor of the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and co-director of the Lymphoma Program at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute.
Cohen treats Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients and directs Winship’s lymphoma clinical trials program. A leading expert in CAR T-cell therapy, an emerging new immunotherapy for some forms of lymphoma, Cohen earned his undergraduate degree at Emory University and received his medical degree at the University of Florida College of Medicine. He completed a residency in internal medicine and fellowship in hematology and medical oncology at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. During his fellowship, he also completed a master’s degree in medical science, gathering additional training in the conduct of clinical and translational research.
A community-minded individual, family member of Congregation B’nai Torah, Cohen shared, “I was born in Hollywood, Fla., but moved to Gainesville, Fla., shortly after I was born so that my mother could start law school. My parents met at the University of Florida, we moved around some, but ultimately, I went to high school in Jacksonville, where my parents still reside. My family (including my grandmother) have been members of the Jacksonville Jewish Center for decades and my grandparents were actually married there. My wife Pam (fellow Emory alum) and I have lived in Atlanta since 2013. We have three children ages 12, 9, and 4 and Pam is a PJ Library connector with Jewish Federation of Jewish Atlanta.”
Cohen adds, “I attended Camp Judaea as a child and was drawn to Atlanta and Emory early on in my college search. I was very impressed with Emory’s excellent reputation in health sciences, and I liked the idea of being relatively close to home. Additionally, I’m a lifelong Braves fan and was excited about the possibility of catching a few games during college.”
Regarding his medical interests, “As a teenager, my grandfather died of colon cancer. I recall the challenges he faced and was always interested in learning more about cancer. My father-in-law is a retired oncologist, and I had the opportunity to shadow him early in my career. While there are certainly challenging days as an oncologist, I was drawn to the longitudinal relationship that you develop with patients and their families. I am always humbled by the grace and courage displayed by so many patients during difficult times in their lives.”
Cohen explained, “Lymphoma in its simplest form is a cancer of a specific type of immune cell called a lymphocyte that typically lives in your lymph nodes or sometimes the bone marrow/peripheral blood. There are many types, and the list continues to expand, however, there are about five to 10 subtypes that comprise the vast majority of the lymphomas that we see. There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ lymphoma type and all of these diseases can impact your life and require ongoing follow-up.”
Patients compliment Cohen’s clear and informative communication ability along with his in-depth knowledge easing the concerns of one’s individual cancer journey. Native Atlantan Patty Benator shared, “After a 17-year trusting and comfortable relationship with my oncologist, who retired, he referred me to Jonathon Cohen, which was truly a gift. Having Dr. Cohen at the helm of my lymphoma follow-up care has given me the continued confidence, thanks to his clinical brilliance and extraordinary collaborative research work for future treatment options.”
Regarding advancements Cohen said, “Treatment of cancer is based on a patient’s own disease characteristics. We are now able to offer many patients access to oral therapies and/or immunotherapies that are significantly changing the landscape of the disease. Immunotherapy refers to any treatment that harnesses the body’s immune system to attack cancer. This can occur by either using therapies to stimulate the patient’s immune system or by directly infusing immune cells or antibodies that specifically target the patient’s cancer. Immunotherapies have been used in a variety of settings in oncology for many years. CAR T-cell therapy refers to a specific immunotherapy in which we collect the patient’s own immune cells (T-cells) and engineer them in a fashion that they target the patient’s cancer. These are then reinfused into the patient, where they hopefully attack the cancer cells. This is currently available for patients with relapsed aggressive lymphomas and we continue to learn more about the best time to use it, and how to make it more effective.’
“The choice of therapy for an individual patient is often quite complicated, and for our aggressive lymphomas, chemotherapy is still a common component of therapy and is often curative. In many cases, we also incorporate immunotherapy when appropriate.”
When asked how we can support lymphoma research, he replied, “Winship has a robust program in lymphoma research and we have several nationally known investigators conducting important clinical trials as well as lab-based research. Donations can be made to the lymphoma program at Winship and nationally, I recommend that patients, families, and other supporters connect with the Lymphoma Research Foundation.”
Cohen added, “Finally, I think maybe the best thing that patients and families can do to support research is to consider enrolling in clinical trials. Trials are scrutinized and monitored closely at all times and often provide a great way to access a very exciting new therapy. While not appropriate for everyone, I would encourage anyone who is considering treatment for lymphoma (or any cancer) to discuss with their doctor the availability of clinical trials.”
- Robyn Spizman Gerson
- Jonathon B. Cohen
- Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology
- Emory University School of Medicine
- CAR T-cell therapy
- University of Florida
- The Ohio State University
- Congregation B'nai Torah
- jewish federation of greater atlanta
- PJ Library
- Camp Judea