Medical oncologist Dr. Bernardo Goulart sees a much brighter future for the treatment of mesothelioma cancer. He wants to be part of it.
Goulart has taken a leadership role in the search for new therapeutics at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), serving as chief investigator in the latest clinical trial examining an immunotherapy/chemotherapy combination for mesothelioma.
“After decades of no real progress, and few options for these patients, the future looks much more promising now,” Goulart said. “Advances are being made. There are better days ahead.”
The SCCA, which includes the University of Washington Medical Center and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, can offer mesothelioma patients the finest care anywhere with its cutting-edge treatment options.
The multidisciplinary, personalized approach to mesothelioma is an example of how SCCA became an elite cancer-care facility.
“We see this disease in a different way. We have things we can offer our patients,” he said. “This trial is one of those options. The hope is to have patients feeling better and living longer, seeing tumor shrinkage. It’s really my desire to improve the outcome for this patient population.”
Special Bond With Mesothelioma Patients
Goulart, the son of a doctor, feels a special bond with his mesothelioma patients, most of whom are diagnosed after a long-before occupational exposure to asbestos.
“Many of them were blue-collar workers who developed the disease out of pursuing a living for their families. That gives me a sense of empathy,” he said. “They got this terrible disease because they were hard-working people. They deserve the best care possible. And I want to help.”
He completed medical fellowships at the Massachusetts General Hospital and at the University of Washington Medical Center. He received his medical degree at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and is board certified in Internal Medicine.
His research has included pharmacoeconomics of cancer therapies. He focused his clinical practice on thoracic oncology and head and neck cancers.
Goulart also is a strong proponent of molecularly targeting treatments that will help physicians better personalize care.
Coming to a specialty center like SCCA, which has both the experience and resources to fight mesothelioma, is a point of emphasis with Goulart.
“We have to get the word out that we’re a center dedicated to the treatment of this disease. Many oncologists who aren’t used to seeing it, take a nihilistic approach, telling their patients there is little they can do,” he said. “And I understand why they feel that way. There was very little progress made in the past few decades. But that is changing now.”
Offering Latest Clinical Trial
His latest phase II clinical trial involves the immunotherapy drug durvalumab, which already has shown considerable promise with lung cancer. The FDA already approved the drug to treat bladder cancer. It works by negating a protein in many tumors that prevents a patient’s own immune system from attacking the tumor cells.
The trial involves combining durvalumab with chemotherapy in first-line treatment.
Patients often come to SCCA after being diagnosed elsewhere, already told there is nothing they can do for this incurable cancer. He wants to make sure patients can explore all their options.
“The view of mesothelioma at some community centers can be so dim that patients are automatically denied surgery, when in fact their disease could be resectable,” he said. “By coming here, with our multi-disciplinary staff, you’ll know for sure if that’s the case. And if it’s not resectable, a patient will still have access to the most promising treatments out there today.”
In 2020, Dr. Goulart helped launch the phase III INFINITE clinical research study. The study is designed to evaluate the intrapleural delivery of an investigational gene therapy drug in combination with celecoxib and gemcitabine, anti-inflammatory and chemotherapy drugs.