About Dr. Hassan
Dr. Raffit Hassan is a medical oncologist and 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 NCI, 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 chief of the Thoracic and Gastrointestinal Oncology Branch at NIC. He is also the senior investigator of the Head, Thoracic and Solid Tumor Immunotherapy Section at the Center for Cancer Research.
Working for the NCI allows Dr. Hassan to investigate rare cancers. Researching diseases in government-operated agencies such as the NCI is often easier because surgeons do not need to wait for insurance companies to reimburse associated fees.
Clinical trials can often run more smoothly and faster in publicly funded facilities than in privately managed cancer centers.
Dr. Hassan’s Career Highlights
Dr. Hassan is a renowned researcher and published author. His career highlights include notable clinical trials focusing on developing targeted immunotherapy and immunotoxins.
He also has experience investigating mesothelin-targeted agents for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Dr. Hassan has worked extensively with SS1P, an anti-mesothelin immunotoxin. Preclinical and clinical studies have shown positive results with SS1P as a therapeutic target for cancer. He is dedicated to improving the effectiveness of SS1P in the hope that it can save thousands of lives in the U.S. each year.
Additionally, Dr. Hassan has worked on the CRS-2017 mesothelin vaccine. One main issue with immunotherapy is that the human body produces antibodies that fight off the new substances entering the body.
In this case, he 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’s Background
In 1998, Dr. Hassan graduated from the University of Kashmir in India. He completed his residency at Sisters Hospital, part of the University of Buffalo, New York.
Dr. Hassan’s interest in mesothelioma 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, he returned to the NCI to further his mesothelioma research.
Dr. Hassan’s Medical Specializations
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that not all doctors will have the opportunity to treat. Dr. Hassan hopes to raise awareness of mesothelioma through his medical specializations and research. Since returning to the NCI, Dr. Hassan has dedicated his career to finding ways of curing this 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 may potentially prolong a patient’s life, a cure is yet to be found.
Dr. Hassan’s work on mesothelioma is mainly focused on immunotherapy research. He and his team have been working on an immunotoxin treatment called SS1P, which targets the protein mesothelin 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. All three patients were still alive 18 months after surgery.
The success of Dr. Hassan’s research has a significant impact on 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 conducted decades of research alongside clinical trials to forge forward with finding alternative cures.
His most notable professional achievements include:
- Approximately 25% of clinical trial patients have shown stable disease (where the cancer isn’t worsening) after receiving Dr. Hassan’s treatment
- Successful clinical trials combining immunotoxin and chemotherapy
- Widespread research into tumor treatment and immunotherapy for mesothelioma
Awards & Honors
- American Society of Clinical Oncology Career Development Award
- National Institute of Health Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award
- Pioneer Award from the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
Dr. Hassan’s Current Work
While working at the NCI, Dr. Hassan extensively researches mesothelioma. Through the NCI’s financial support, Dr. Hassan can continue his research and hopes to one day find a cure for this rare disease. He also serves as 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.”
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