FROM THE MESOTHELIOMA APPLIED RESEARCH FOUNDATION’S “MEET THE EXPERTS” SERIES: An Evening of Research Breakthroughs with Dr. Raffit Hassan

Tonight, as part of the “Meet the Experts” podcasts presented exclusively from the Meso Foundation, Dr. Raffit Hassan, Senior Investigator and Chief of the Solid Tumor Immunotherapy Section in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and former Chair of the Meso Foundation’s Science Advisory Board, sat down with Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner and Medical Liaison for the Meso Foundation, to discuss his research into mesothelin and development of  clinical trials  using mesothelin as a target for epithelial malignant mesothelioma, providing both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma patients with the potential of much-needed new treatment options.

In his talk “Mesothelin: A New Target for Immunotherapy” Dr. Hassan discussed the novel therapies for the treatment of mesothelioma. Laboratory investigation, carried out by Dr. Ira Pastan, Dr. Hassan, and colleagues at the NCI, has demonstrated that mesothelin, a tumor antigen which was discovered at the NCI, is a useful target for tumor-specific therapy of malignant mesothelioma. Morab 009, a chimeric anti mesothelin monoclonal antibody, has completed a multi center trial and we expect to hear the results at the Annual  ASCO Meeting taking place in early June. (American Society of Clinical Oncology).

This evening, in his talk, Dr. Hassan outlined the approval process by which patients can become part of this trial.

Good candidates for this trial are generally those patients who have already had some type of treatment. For example, patients who are not good candidates for surgery or those who have had surgery in the past and patients who have had at least Alimta-based therapy would be considered good candidates.

The first step is an initial screening, beginning with the patient’s doctor and then a face-to-face interview with Hassan, his team, and all data from the patient’s physician. If, following the initial tests, the patient is found a suitable candidate, NCI will help with travel expenses to enable the patient to participate in the trial. “At no time,” Dr. Hassan assured, “either in the initial screening or in the trail itself is the patient charged for treatments.”

Some side effects have included weight gain and leg swelling, mainly coming from fluid retention, and a decrease in albumin, a blood protein. However, Dr. Hassan commented, “These side effects usually disappeared by the time of the patient’s discharge from the hospital.”

More information about this trial is available at the Meso Foundation by emailing mary@curemeso.org or by calling (703) 879-3820.

Mesothelin, defined by MedicineNet.com, is a protein found on cell surfaces. Certain antibodies bind themselves to mesotheliomas and other tumors, so soluble mesothelin-related proteins (SMR) are used to identify mesothelioma patients and to monitor the cancer’s progression of their disease. SMR concentrations tend to run higher with mesothelioma patients than patients battling other cancerous or pleural diseases, and SMR concentrations often correlate with tumor size and progression.

A 2011 recipient of the Meso Foundation’s Pioneer Award for breakthroughs in mesothelioma research, Dr. Hassan has focused his own trials on targeting mesothelin as a potential treatment of patients with mesothelioma. Dr. Hassan’s research began in the NCI laboratory and continues to this day.

If you missed tonight’s “Meet the Experts” presentation, you can replay Dr. Hassan’s talk or download it as one of our podcasts at our website.

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