Abramson Developing CAR T-Cell Therapy for Mesothelioma

Research & Clinical Trials

Written by Tim Povtak

Reading Time: 4 mins
Publication Date: 11/20/2018
Fact Checked
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.

Asbestos.com is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource

The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

About The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com

  • Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
  • Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
Learn More About Us


My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family.
Mesothelioma patient’s daughter
  • Google Review Rating
  • BBB Review Rating

How to Cite Asbestos.com’s Article


Povtak, T. (2020, October 16). Abramson Developing CAR T-Cell Therapy for Mesothelioma. Asbestos.com. Retrieved June 1, 2023, from https://www.asbestos.com/news/2018/11/20/car-t-therapy-grant-mesothelioma/


Povtak, Tim. "Abramson Developing CAR T-Cell Therapy for Mesothelioma." Asbestos.com, 16 Oct 2020, https://www.asbestos.com/news/2018/11/20/car-t-therapy-grant-mesothelioma/.


Povtak, Tim. "Abramson Developing CAR T-Cell Therapy for Mesothelioma." Asbestos.com. Last modified October 16, 2020. https://www.asbestos.com/news/2018/11/20/car-t-therapy-grant-mesothelioma/.

T cell attacking cancer cell

The National Cancer Institute awarded a five-year, $10.7 million grant to the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania to develop CAR T-cell therapy for mesothelioma and lung cancer.

The hopes are high for a breakthrough.

The program involves a laboratory modification of a patient’s T cells — a type of white blood cell — that prompts the immune system to attack cancer cells.

The therapy also is known as chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy. It already is revolutionizing the way some blood and bone marrow cancers are treated.

The grant is designed to investigate whether this type of gene therapy can do the same for solid tumors such as mesothelioma.

“CAR T cells have completely changed the way we treat leukemia, so the hope is that yes, over the next decade we can change the way we treat these tumors,” Dr. Steven Albelda, principal investigator for the grant and director of Lung Research, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at UPenn, told The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com. “The potential is there.”

Project Involves Clinical Trials for Patients

The grant will be used for three related projects, all of which focus on fine-tuning CAR T cells to stimulate the immune cells into recognizing and destroying the cancer.

“So they essentially become tumor-killing robots,” Albelda said. “The stakes of these projects are incredibly high. It could be a major paradigm shift in the treatment of these cancers.”

The first project is a set of clinical trials. One is designed to target the protein mesothelin, which is found on most mesothelioma tumors.

Another trial will aim at the fibroblast activation protein, which is part of the tumor support system. A third trial in the future will work off results of the previous two.

The second project will track the CAR T cells, measure their sustainability and find ways to increase their endurance.

Earlier research has shown that these genetically altered T cells lack endurance and stop working after a period unless they can be reenergized by another drug.

The third project will be a search for new targets to trigger the immune system and improve efficacy by combining other therapies with the CAR T cells.

“This grant is very significant. It’s huge [for mesothelioma]. Unfortunately, not many people are funded by the NCI to do mesothelioma research,” he said. “We’re grateful to the NCI for supporting our efforts to expand this approach.”

CAR T Works Well with Blood Cancers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first approved this type of gene therapy in 2017 for pediatric leukemia, which recently has sparked a new approach to cancer care.

Abramson played a leading role in its development with leukemia.

The latest program will be handled in the Translational Center of Excellence for Lung Cancer Immunology at Abramson.

The project is similar to the work also being done by Dr. Prasad Adusumilli and his staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

The Abramson Cancer Center has been a world leader in mesothelioma research and treatment for many years.

The Mesothelioma and Pleural Disease Program at Abramson includes renowned specialists in surgical, medical and radiation oncology, along with expertise in pulmonology and pathology.

Mesothelioma Treatment and Research Leader

A multidisciplinary approach with personalized treatment has attracted patients from across the country to Abramson.

Pleural mesothelioma survivor Walter Merth raved about his success there.

The research team is unmatched. There currently are 11 different clinical trials spanning various modalities for mesothelioma patients.

“We have clinical trials for every type of patient. With a rare disease, and a fatal disease like this, it’s always worth getting a second opinion at a center that sees a lot of patients like we do,” Albelda said. “You’re just not going to get the best or more innovative care at a local community hospital that you will get here.”

Anyone interested in being part of the trial involving CAR T cells at Abramson should contact Timothy Nichols, program coordinator.

blue medical health symbol
Connect with a Mesothelioma Doctor
Find a Top Specialist Near You