About Sara Pai, MD, PhD

Dr. Sara Pai is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Dartmouth College with a major in biochemistry and molecular biology. After graduating Dartmouth, she completed the MD/PhD program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in which she obtained her PhD training in cancer immunology and vaccines. After completing her residency in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, she joined its faculty in 2007 where she led a therapeutic human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine clinical trial which was supported by the Head and Neck Cancer SPORE program. In 2014, she was recruited to join the faculty in the Department of Surgery at Mass General. Her research interests focus on better understanding how HPV can evade the immune system and strategies that can be applied to reactivate the host immune response against the virus through vaccines and immune modulatory drugs. She leads several HPV-related investigator-initiated clinical immunotherapy trials and has a research laboratory that is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as industry. She serves on grant and strategic review panels at the NIH and international government sponsored programs in the UK, Hong Kong and Portugal. She is on the editorial board of lead scientific journals as well as serves on the advisory boards for several pharmaceutical companies.

Departments, Centers, & Programs:

Clinical Interests:




Mass General Surgery: Surgical Oncology
55 Fruit St.
Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care
7th Floor
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: 617-726-5251

Medical Education

  • M.D.; Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Residency, Johns Hopkins Hospital***

American Board Certifications

  • Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Board of Otolaryngology

Accepted Insurance Plans

Note: This provider may accept more insurance plans than shown; please call the practice to find out if your plan is accepted.



  • Select Publications:

    • Pai SI, Jack Lee J, Carey TE, Westra WH, Ferrone S, Moore C, Mosunjac MB, Shin DM, Ferris RL; HNC SPORE HIV supplement consortium. HLA class I antigen processing machinery (APM) component expression and PD-1:PD-L1 pathway activation in HIV-infected head and neck cancers. Oral Oncol 2018 Feb;77:92-97.
    • Mattox AK, Lee J, Westra WH, Pierce RH, Ghossein R, Faquin WC, Diefenbach TJ, Morris LG, Lin DT, Wirth LJ, Lefranc-Torres A, Ishida E, Chakravarty PD, Johnson L, Zeng YC, Chen H, Poznansky MC, Iyengar NM, Pai SI. PD-1 expression in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas derives primarily from functionally anergic CD4+ TILs in the presence of PD-L1+ TAMs. Cancer Res 2017 Nov 15:77(22):6365-6374.
    • Pai SI, Faquin WC. Programmed cell death ligand 1 as a biomarker in head and neck cancer. Cancer Cytopathol 2017 Jul;125(7);529-533.
    • Pai SI, Zandberg DP, Strome SE. The role of antagonists of the PD-1:PD-L1/PD-L2 axis in head and neck cancer treatment. Oral Oncol 2016 Oct;61:152-8.




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