About Dr. Raffit Hassan
Dr. Hassan is a medical oncologist and solid tumor immunotherapy senior investigator at the NCI. His work focuses mostly on mesothelioma—a rare kind of cancer that emerges after prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers.
As a leading researcher at the NIC, Dr. Hassan is particularly focused on developing immunotherapy for patients with solid tumors. He hopes his research will prompt a cure for mesothelioma in the near future.
Dr. Hassan is currently the co-chief of the Thoracic and Gastrointestinal Oncology Branch at NIC. He’s also the senior investigator of the Head, Thoracic and Solid Tumor Immunotherapy Section at the Center for Cancer Research.
Dr. Hassan enjoys working for the NCI (a government institution), as it allows him to devote time to investigate rare cancers. Research is often easier to perform here as surgeons do not need to wait for insurance to come through before they operate. Within publicly funded facilities, clinical trials can often run more smoothly and quickly compared to clinical trials at privately-run cancer centers.
Dr. Hassan’s Location
Dr. Hassan currently works at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Bethesda, Maryland. He can be contacted here:
Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute
Bldg 10; 10 Center Drive room: 4E-5330
Bethesda, MD 20892
Dr. Hassan’s Career Highlights
Dr. Hassan’s career highlights include his notable clinical trials, which focus on the development of targeted immunotherapy and immunotoxins. He is currently working with mesothelin-targeted agents for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Dr. Hassan has also worked extensively with an anti-mesothelin immunotoxin—SS1P. Preclinical and clinical studies have seen good results with SS1P as a therapeutic target for cancer. Dr. Hassan is now dedicated to improving the effectiveness of SS1P in the hope that it will be able to save thousands of lives in the US each year.
A second therapy Dr. Hassan has been working on is a mesothelin vaccine called CRS-2017. Half of the battle with immunotherapy is due to the human body producing antibodies that fight off the new substances entering the body. In this case, Dr. Hassan has found that the immune system must be temporarily delayed during the procedure to give the antibodies a chance to fight mesothelioma tumors.
Dr. Hassan is also a renowned researcher and published author, co-writing many studies, journals, and reviews on cancer and mesothelioma research.
Dr. Hassan’s Background
Dr. Hassan grew up in India and graduated from the University of Kashmir in 1988. He then went onto complete his residency at Sisters Hospital, part of the University of Buffalo, New York.
Dr. Hassan’s interest in mesothelioma first began when he completed a fellowship at NCI in 1997. He moved to the University of Oklahoma for five years to work on non-cancer-related studies. In 2002, Dr. Hassan then returned to NCI to further his research into mesothelioma.
Dr. Hassan’s Medical Specializations
Mesothelioma is such a rare form of cancer that not all doctors will come across a case in their lifetime. Dr. Hassan is hoping to bring more awareness to mesothelioma through his medical specializations and research. Since returning to the NCI, Dr. Hassan has dedicated his career to finding ways of curing this tragic disease.
In an article published in the Science Translational Medicine journal, Dr. Hassan explains how few treatment options there are for mesothelioma patients. Despite the few procedures that prolong a patient’s life, a cure is yet to be found.
Dr. Hassan’s main mesothelioma specialty is focused on immunotherapy research. He and his team have been working on an immunotoxin treatment called SS1P, which targets the protein mesothelin present in mesothelioma cells.
Clinical trial findings have noted that patients can develop an antibody against SS1P, yet by combining this with pentostatin and Cytoxan (which suppresses part of the immune system), 3 out of 10 patients saw significant tumor shrinkage. In addition, all three patients were still alive 18 months after surgery.
The success of Dr. Hassan’s research has a significant impact for patients battling mesothelioma. HIs new approach gives hope to those who have tried other methods, such as HIPEC, chemotherapy and radiation.
Dr. Hassan’s Career Accomplishments
Dr. Hassan has dedicated his life to actively advancing knowledge of mesothelioma. While other oncologists may work directly with patients to find a cure, Dr. Hassan has, instead, conducted decades of research alongside clinical trials to forge forward with finding alternative cures.
His achievements so far include:
- Approximately 25% of clinical trial patients have shown stable disease after Dr. Hassan’s treatment
- Widespread research into tumor treatment and immunotherapy for mesothelioma
- In 2009, he organized an international meeting on peritoneal mesothelioma to address new treatments
- Successful clinical trials combining immunotoxin and chemotherapy
Awards & Honors
As a devoted researcher, Dr. Hassan has gained respect in his profession for making strides in an area of cancer that is notoriously perplexing.
Dr. Hassan’s awards to date include:
- Pioneer Award for the Mesothelioma Foundation
- American Society of Clinical Oncology Career Development Award
- National Institute of Health Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award
Dr. Hassan’s Current Work
While working at the NCI, Dr. Hassan has the opportunity to research on the topic of mesothelioma extensively. Due to the NCI’s sufficient funding, Dr. Hassan is able to continue his research and hopes to one day find a cure for this rare and deadly disease. Being devoted to his research, Dr. Hassan is now a principal investigator of clinical trials involving immunotherapy at NCI.
“There are a lot of advantages to doing research here, especially with a disease like mesothelioma. Everything you need to succeed is right here.” — Dr. Raffit Hassan
He is currently in the middle of several trials involving mesothelioma. One of these trials is a study into tumor vaccines that he hopes will bring medical research closer to finding a cure.
Notable Work by Dr. Hassan
Perhaps Dr. Hassan’s most renowned published work to date is his study on ‘Chemotherapy and targeted therapies for unresectable malignant mesothelioma,’ which he co-wrote with two other oncologists in 2011. The study looked into the global burden of mesothelioma, what treatments were available and what progress has been made with the development of new generation antifolates. The study involved clinical trials at NCI.