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As a cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Harvey Pass has spent decades studying mesothelioma, helping patients, and advancing knowledge of this incurable disease. Dr. Pass is currently director of New York University Medical Center’s Thoracic Surgery Division. He also leads several important mesothelioma research programs for the National Cancer Institute. He has also contributed significantly to the understanding of mesothelioma through research projects and clinical trials.
Dr. Pass’s accomplishments have led to numerous accolades. However, the most important are the respect and admiration of his patients and colleagues. His specialties are cardiothoracic surgery and thoracic surgical oncology with a focus on mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Education and Early Career
Dr. Pass began his medical career with an undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University. He later earned his medical degree from Duke University Medical School. Dr. Pass remained at Duke after graduating to complete his residency. He also completed a residency program in general surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and a fellowship in thoracic surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina. In between residency programs he earned experience at the U.S. Public Health Service hospital on Staten Island.
His fellowship in South Carolina was followed by a one year position as an assistant professor of surgery. From the Medical University of South Carolina, Dr. Pass went on to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institute of Health where he worked as a senior staff fellow from 1983 to 1986. He also served as a senior investigator and head of thoracic oncology there from 1986 to 1996. In 1996, he left the NCI for Detroit to work at Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute until 2005.
In 2005 Dr. Pass left Detroit to work at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. He is currently chief of the thoracic surgery division at Langone. Dr. Pass is also the leader of the Early Detection Research Network Biomarker Discovery Laboratory for Mesothelioma and the Mesothelioma Pathogenesis Program Project, both research programs funded by the NCI. In his time at Langone, Dr. Pass has helped develop the school’s three year thoracic surgery fellowship.
Making Strides in Photodynamic Therapy
Photodynamic therapy, or PDT, is an innovative treatment for cancer that uses light energy to kill cancer cells. Dr. Pass was instrumental in developing the treatment, studying it extensively in clinical trials. PDT involves the administration of a photosensitizer. These drugs makes cells sensitive to specific wavelengths of light. The tumor is then exposed to those wavelengths, causing the cancer cells to die.
Dr. Pass helped study the use of PDT in mesothelioma patients during his 1986 to 1996 tenure at the National Cancer Institute. The procedure improves life expectancies in pleural mesothelioma patients. Luckily, it is rather noninvasive and can usually be done on an outpatient basis. PDT is often limited to patients with tumors close to the skin. However, Dr. Pass helped develop an intraoperative version of the treatment to help patients with deeper tumors.
Discovery of Osteopontin and Other Research
Dr. Pass spent many years conducting oncology research, helping develop advancements like intraoperative photodynamic therapy. Another important study he conducted led to the discovery of a protein called osteopontin. Dr. Pass discovered osteopontin with the help of colleagues at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. Because osteopontin accumulates in high levels in patients with pleural mesothelioma, the discovery was crucial to help screen for mesothelioma. Since this type of cancer is difficult to diagnose, having this new biomarker was an important development.
Another area of research that Dr. Pass contributed to is the use of adjuvant immunochemotherapy after surgery to remove tumors. He also helped organize tissue archives, making mesothelioma research easier for other scientists. Since this cancer is rare, finding tissue for research studies was difficult before these special archives.
Dr. Pass’s research has also included clinical trials with patients suffering from mesothelioma and non-small cell lung cancer. He has researched novel chemotherapy drugs, new surgical procedures for mesothelioma, genetic studies, various types of radiation therapy, and multi-modal treatments.
Not only has Dr. Pass contributed greatly to the understanding of mesothelioma, he has also been a passionate advocate for victims of the disease. He has pushed for greater awareness of the connection between these mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. His advocacy includes serving on the boards of the Lung Cancer Alliance and the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.
Awards and Organizations
Over his distinguished career, Dr. Harvey Pass has worked to advance knowledge and treatment for mesothelioma and lung cancer. This has earned him membership in several prestigious organizations as well as many honors and awards. Dr. Pass was named one of America’s top doctors as well as a top cancer doctor by several organizations. He held these distinctions for several years in a row beginning in 2002. Dr. Pass is also a member of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the Cardiothoracic Surgery Network, the General Thoracic Surgical Club, and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. He is also a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.
Dr. Pass is a world-renowned surgeon and mesothelioma specialist. From his position of leadership at Langone Medical Center, he continues to treat patients, lead research studies, and educate the next generation of thoracic surgeons and oncology specialists. In addition to his work with patients and research, Dr. Pass has been a vocal advocate for recognizing the connection between mesothelioma and asbestos exposure.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.