Dr Yasmin Mohseni: 5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
Published in
8 min readAug 2, 2022


The stage of a tumor will form the treatment plan: this describes the how far the cancer has spread into surrounding tissues or lymph nodes. From this, treatments are evaluated such as the possibility of surgery or if there is intent to cure or to extend life and maintain quality of life in that time.

Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. There is so much great information out there, but sometimes it is very difficult to filter out the noise. What causes cancer? Can it be prevented? How do you detect it? What are the odds of survival today? What are the different forms of cancer? What are the best treatments? And what is the best way to support someone impacted by cancer?

In this interview series called, “5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer” we are talking to experts about cancer such as oncologists, researchers, and medical directors to address these questions. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Yasmin Mohseni, a top scientist in the clinical translation of immunotherapies including immune regulation for autoimmune diseases and solid organ transplant rejection, to oncological immunotherapy. Dr. Mohseni’s work is highly regarded around the world by scientists in the field.

Yasmin Mohseni, PhD,an immunologist specializing in the research and clinical translation of immunotherapies, develops strategies to produce cell and gene therapy products. Her groundbreaking work focuses on engineering the immune system that applies to cancer, autoimmunity and solid organ transplant rejection. Her most recent work involves developing and manufacturing immunotherapy for different cancers. Her novel approach has attracted the attention of leading scientists around the world in the United States and Europe.

This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?

My primary motivation is to make what is deemed incurable a thing of the past. Scary diagnoses like cancer or an autoimmune disease can easily become your identity. Conventional therapies are only taking us so far in terms of management or intent to cure, and carry their own risks of complications. My primary motivation is to be involved in cutting-edge technology to treat these diseases, and cell and gene therapy fits in that category. This pandemic has given us a greater appreciation for our immune system, my drive is to improve it by engineering.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I have been heavily involved in cell and gene therapy, specifically, creating immunotherapies. This means engineering cells of the immune system to target the specific antigen (or protein) that’s causing the problem. So for example, by engineering the killers of one’s immune system (such as cytotoxic T cells) to target the tumors afflicting a patient. For solid organ transplant rejection, by engineering the cells that suppress immunity (i.e. regulatory T cells) to target the transplanted organ, mark it as safe and stop the rest of the immune system from rejecting the organ. The same principle applies for autoimmune diseases, where you’d engineer the regulatory cells to target the organ under attack, protecting it from the rest of the immune system.

Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with some basic definitions so that we are all on the same page. What is exactly cancer?

Cancer is characterized by cell growth which exceeds the limit a normal cell can divide. Cancer cells continuously divide and survive, with the ability to change their metabolism and influence their environment.

What causes cancer?

Genetics and environment. Processed foods and lack of micronutrients for example, and industrialization have contributed to higher cancer rates. Genetic predispositions include mutations of which some are defined and you can be screened for. The obvious too such as smoking or excessive drug consumption, poor diet as mentioned, excess radiation exposure, and some viral infections such as human papilloma virus (HPV) or Epstein-barr virus (EBV).

What is the difference between the different forms of cancer?

Cancers are defined in different ways, predominantly the histological type (i.e. where did it originate?) and the first site it develops. For example, carcinoma originates in the lining of tissues, and sarcoma originates in the connective tissues.

I know that the next few questions are huge topics, but we’d love to hear your thoughts regardless. How can cancer be prevented?

Unfortunately we can’t be prescriptive with this, but the basics include having a balanced diet, consistently exercising, minimizing exposure to potential carcinogens (chemicals, radiation, smoking) and get vaccinated as some viruses do cause cancer.

How can one detect the main forms of cancer?

Cancer is detected by several imaging modalities, from PET scans, CT, MRI and ultrasound. If you’re talking about observation, it depends on the cancer type, but check for lumps, drastic weight loss with no reason, and moles changing shape. That is incredibly simplified, but I do think the sudden unintentional weight loss can be overlooked.

Cancer used to almost be a death sentence, but it seems that it has changed today. What are the odds of surviving cancer today?

I’m hesitant to answer this because that depends on how soon you catch it, the genetic make-up of cancer and the origins. Oncologists will devise a treatment strategy hopefully with the intent to cure. With new therapies in the last 5 years, however, certain cancers such as leukemia have more hope than before.

Can you share some of the new cutting-edge treatments for cancer that have recently emerged? What new cancer treatment innovations are you most excited to see come to fruition in the near future?

Immunotherapy. A number of cutting-edge treatments include checkpoint inhibitors (Nobel Prize winner), and adoptive T cell therapy. Checkpoint inhibitors block one key tactic tumors use to escape the immune system. Your immune cells have checkpoints to stop them from potentially becoming autoreactive (i.e. autoimmune), or in more lay terms, stop them from going rogue. Cancer cells know this unfortunately, so engage the checkpoints on the invading immune cells. Checkpoint inhibitors block this from happening, allowing the immune cells to hunt the tumors without being switched off. Another approach is adoptive T cell therapy, which has been extremely promising against different forms of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. This is an engineering strategy, where a patient’s killer T cells will be engineered to target the specific tumor that patient has. So I am excited to see how immunotherapy can be translated to the more complicated cancers such as solid tumors that build a fortress to avoid detection.

From your experience, what are a few of the best ways to support a loved one, friend, or colleague who is impacted by cancer?

I’ll start with a disclaimer which is I can’t speak for everyone, and this is just personally what has helped in my situation. When aggressive cancer afflicted a few people I love, I was just there to listen and be bullet-proof for them. Personally, I didn’t cry in front of them or show signs of panic, but I spoke life, encouragement and prayed with them. There seemed to have been a peace over them when getting a divine entity involved in these specific circumstances, almost as if taking the situation out of their hands and not try and fix a problem that they didn’t create. I tried to help them navigate life as if everything was still normal, but encouraging rest and slowing down. Cancer or any disease is not an identity. I once again end with the disclaimer that this was my personal story only that may not apply to others.

What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?

One myth that cancer biologists try and dispel is that sugar causes cancer. The evidence on sugar having a causative link isn’t quite there yet, and this is where correlation does not mean causation. We all know a balanced diet is crucial however, so don’t neglect that.

Food has tenuous links to gastrointestinal cancers, but there are outlandish claims that 70% of cancers are linked to food. Diets 100% impact a likelihood in getting a disease as well as reducing symptoms. If a patient is to be put on a restrictive diet, this should be validated with a registered dietician.

Thank you so much for all of that. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what are your “5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.

The stage of a tumor will form the treatment plan: this describes the how far the cancer has spread into surrounding tissues or lymph nodes. From this, treatments are evaluated such as the possibility of surgery or if there is intent to cure or to extend life and maintain quality of life in that time.

Immunotherapy, although I sing to its tune, is not perfect just yet, nor is it suitable for all cancers. Different immunotherapy products are approved for certain cancers only because they demonstrated safety and efficacy in these contexts. I can tell you though, that this is the route researchers are taking to diversify their portfolio of targets.

Cancer does not discriminate. The healthiest athlete with the best diet can be diagnosed at the age of 25 with breast cancer, versus the chain smoker at the age of 90.

Although cancer may spread, where it originates from is what it will be defined as.

Cancers can be triggered by infections. This is why it is crucial to vaccinate yourself against known cancer-causing pathogens such as HPV or hepatitis.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Perhaps a strange one, but considering the last 2 years, there has been a lot of division that has fueled hate and bullying on social media. I think social media can be a brilliant tool, and the movement I would start is “challenge with love”. Those close to me know this is my motto. Healthy debates and disagreements can promote someone to a broader perspective and way of thinking, it does not need to be in the form of bullying, putting down or abusing someone as a typical “keyboard warrior”. Be kind on social media, and if you disagree with someone, engage in a heathy debate with love and affirmation!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I’m active on social media as a science communicator, educating people on the immune system in the context of autoimmunity, allergies and cancer, so you can follow me @doctor.yas_

People can also look up my Research Gate if curious to read any of my publications.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.

Thank you for having me ☺



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), Journalist, Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor