Dr. Pass completed a 3-year senior fellowship in the Thoracic Oncology Surgical Branch of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). There, he was mentored by Dr. Jack Roth and Dr. Steven Rosenberg in developing novel clinical trials from laboratory investigations. Dr. Pass was appointed Head of Thoracic Oncology for NCI in 1986, and held this position for ten years. During his tenure:
The NCI’s Thoracic Oncology Surgical Branch became known for its development of initiatives including induction therapy for Stage IIIA lung cancer and intraoperative radiation therapy for thoracic malignancies.
Through a series of Phase I, II, and III trials, he explored the use of intraoperative photodynamic therapy (PDT) for the treatment of pleural mesothelioma, as well as the use of adjuvant immunochemotherapy after surgery for mesothelioma. He was one of the first thoracic surgeons to study the use of PDT for thoracic cancers.
He conducted extensive large animal experiments to report on the use of hyperthermic perfusion using tumor necrosis factor for pulmonary metastases in humans.
He pioneered the use of surgery for pulmonary metastases in a wide variety of neoplasms.
He developed one of the first organized, prospective tissue archives with accurate matching demographics, and used this resource to begin a series of ongoing collaborative studies of the molecular biology of mesothelioma:
the discovery of simian virus 40 in human mesothelioma with Dr. Michele Carbone
the role of the insulin growth factor receptor in mesothelioma with Dr. Renato Baserga
the role of the neurofibromatosis gene in mesothelioma with Dr. John Minna
the original findings with Dr. Ira Pastan which led to the discovery of mesothelin
He published the first of three editions of the reference text Lung Cancer: Principles and Practice.
He was awarded the NIH Directors Award in 1991 for his contributions to thoracic oncology.
From 1996 to 2005, Dr. Pass built the thoracic oncology program at Karmanos Cancer Institute of Wayne State University. During his time at Karmanos:
He was continually funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs Merit awards, and by the Early Detection Research Network of the NCI.
His research focus shifted to the development of strategies for the early detection of lung cancer, and he was a Principal Investigator for Wayne State’s International Early Lung Cancer Action Project.
He started the first low-dose helical screening program for lung cancer in Michigan
He led population studies in the Arab-Chaldean community in Dearborn which used sputum to screen for high risk smokers.
He was the first in Michigan to introduce the use of fluorescence bronchoscopy for the detection of early airway cancers.
He was influential in securing FDA approval of Photofrin-based PDT for treatment of endobronchial lung cancer; FDA approval of the OncoLife Autofluorescence bronchoscopy system for detection of preneoplasia; and NCI funding for one of the few chemoprevention trials for lung cancer
He helped found the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF) in 1998
He published extensively on the angiogenic mechanisms in the disease, as well as further mechanisms of SV40 and asbestos-related carcinogenesis.
He conducted novel trials for mesothelioma including the use of a novel antiangiogenesis agent, tetrathiomolybdate, an oral compound which lowers the serum copper for adjuvant therapy after cytoreduction of the disease.
His laboratory published novel studies of gene expression array prediction of prognosis in mesothelioma, as well as the discovery of novel molecules in the disease including intelectin.
His studies of differences between normal tissues and mesothelioma led to a seminal paper in the New England Journal of Medicine documenting osteopontin as a sensitive and specific serum biomarker for the disease.
He was a co-editor of Surgery: Basic Science and Clinical Evidence, and Oncology: An Evidence Based Approach. He also edited Malignant Mesothelioma: Advances in Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Translational Therapies and 100 Questions & Answers about Mesothelioma.
He was Associate Editor for the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, Surgical Editor for Clinical Lung Cancer, Thoracic Surgery Editor for Annals of Surgical Oncology, and a member of the editorial board for Clinical Cancer Research.
He was awarded Detroit’s Top Doctors award in 2004 and 2005
In 2005, Dr. Pass was recruited to be the first Director of the NYU Division of Thoracic Surgery. His laboratory at Bellevue Hospital is the home of the NCI-funded Early Detection Research Network Biomarker Discovery Laboratory for Mesothelioma, and the Clinical CORE for the NCI’s recently funded Mesothelioma Pathogenesis Program Project. He has solidified NYU’s 3-year Thoracic Fellowship Training Program for individuals interested in general thoracic surgery. The program trains superb surgeons and thoracic scientists for the future.
Dr. Pass serves as an Ad Hoc reviewer for publications including New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, International Journal of Cancer and Journal of Clinical Oncology. He is a vigorous advocate for patients with lung cancer and mesothelioma, serving as a Lung Cancer Alliance Board member, and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. He has been awarded Castle Connolly’s America’s Top Doctors award for the last five years.