Ira Pastan, M.D.

NIH Distinguished Investigator

Laboratory of Molecular Biology


Building 37, Room 5106
Bethesda, MD 20892


Research Topics

Mesothelin as a Target for Cancer Therapy by CAR-T cells and Bispecific Antibodies

1.2 million Americans develop cancer each year and about 500,000 die from the disease. To improve the therapy of cancer new approaches and drugs with unique mechanisms of action are needed. Mesothelin is a lineage restricted cell surface protein that is highly expressed by many cancers, and onlya few non-essential tissues. The specificity of mesothelin expression makes it a popular target for antibody-based therapies, but shed mesothelin has been found to be a major barrier to these therapies. To overcome this problem we developed Mab 15B6 that binds to a juxta-membrane region of mesothelin and does not bind to shed mesothelin. Mab 15B6 was used to make CAR T cells and bispecific antibodies (T cell engagers) that have high anti-tumor activity in mice. A CAR-T is being prepared for evaluation in humans.


Dr. Ira Pastan was educated at the Boston Public Latin School, Tufts College, and Tufts Medical School. He did his residency at the Yale School of Medicine (1957-1959) and came to NIH in 1959. In 1970, he founded the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the NCI.

Major honors

Van Meter Prize, 1971

G. Burroughs Mider Lectureship, National Institutes of Health, 1973

Membership, National Academy of Sciences, 1982

American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1997

Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology, 1997

Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1997

International Feltrinelli Prize for Medicine, 2009

Nathan Davis Award of the AMA for Government Service, 2010

Membership, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2010

AACR Team Science Award, 2014

Humbert Humphrey Award, DHHS, 2019

Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, 2020

Selected Publications

  1. Hassan R, Miller AC, Sharon E, Thomas A, Reynolds JC, Ling A, Kreitman RJ, Miettinen MM, Steinberg SM, Fowler DH, Pastan I. Major cancer regressions in mesothelioma after treatment with an anti-mesothelin immunotoxin and immune suppression. Sci Transl Med. 2013;5(208):208ra147.
  2. Liu W, Onda M, Kim C, Xiang L, Weldon JE, Lee B, Pastan I. A recombinant immunotoxin engineered for increased stability by adding a disulfide bond has decreased immunogenicity. Protein Eng Des Sel. 2012;25(1):1-6.
  3. Kreitman RJ, Tallman MS, Robak T, Coutre S, Wilson WH, Stetler-Stevenson M, Fitzgerald DJ, Lechleider R, Pastan I. Phase I trial of anti-CD22 recombinant immunotoxin moxetumomab pasudotox (CAT-8015 or HA22) in patients with hairy cell leukemia. J Clin Oncol. 2012;30(15):1822-8.
  4. Chaudhary VK, Queen C, Junghans RP, Waldmann TA, FitzGerald DJ, Pastan I. A recombinant immunotoxin consisting of two antibody variable domains fused to Pseudomonas exotoxin. Nature. 1989;339(6223):394-7.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Friday, April 26, 2024