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Mesothelioma Doctors

David Sugarbaker, M.D.

Dr. Sugarbaker
Houston, TX


Dr. David Sugarbaker

Professor of Surgery; Chief, General Thoracic Surgery; Director, Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine

Baylor College of Medicine

Baylor Clinic
6620 Main Street, Suite 1325
Houston, TX 77030
(713) 798-6376

Wheaton College

Cornell University Medical College - 1979

Brigham and Women's Hospital; Peter Bent Brigham Hospital

Toronto General Hospital at the University of Toronto

Dr. David Sugarbaker is a world-renowned doctor and certified thoracic surgeon widely credited for developing the first tri-modal treatment approach for malignant pleural mesothelioma. His current leadership appointments include Professor of Surgery and Chief of General Thoracic Surgery at the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery and Director of the Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine. Formerly, Dr. Sugarbaker served as Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Chief of Surgical Services at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Executive Vice-Chair of Department of Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Educational Background

Dr. Sugarbaker completed his undergraduate degree at Wheaton College in Illinois and received his MD from Cornell University Medical College in 1979. In addition, he completed residencies at several prestigious hospitals including Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Toronto General Hospital and Toronto Hospital for Sick Children at the University of Toronto.

Informational Video

In this video, Dr. David Sugarbaker discusses intraoperative chemotherapy and other experimental strategies for treating mesothelioma at the 2011 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma organized by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.

Experimental Strategies in Malignant Mesothelioma

Clinical and Laboratory Research

Dr. Sugarbaker is considered to be one of the world’s leading experts in the diagnosis and treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. The majority of Dr. Sugarbaker’s clinical and laboratory research has centered on the development of what has been termed a “tri-modal” therapeutic approach to the treatment of diffuse malignant pleural mesothelioma. This three-pronged method uses a combination of radical surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy to treat patients diagnosed with the disease. Specifically, Sugarbaker’s highly-regarded treatment for mesothelioma patients includes:

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy - This is a serious surgical procedure that includes the removal of the diseased lung and the areas surrounding it. Sugarbaker is one of the most skilled in the country at this surgery but patients must be in overall good health to be a candidate for the procedure. Certain other parameters exist as well, including the fact that the disease must be limited to just one pleural surface. Cardiac and kidney function must be optimal as well.

  • Pleurectomy - In some cases, Sugarbaker’s tri-modal approach involves the use of pleurectomy instead of the more serious extrapleural pneumonectomy. A pleurectomy involves the removal of both layers of the lining of the lungs, known as the pleura. Again, the patient must be in otherwise good health to be eligible for this procedure.

  • Chemotherapy - Adjuvant chemotherapy is employed after surgery in order to combat any remaining cancer. As such, Sugarbaker and his team have been experimenting with intraoperative, intracavitary hyperthermic chemotherapy in order to better target cancer cells.

  • Radiation - Adjuvant radiation of the external beam variety is also used to kill any cancer cells remaining after surgery.

Dr. Sugarbaker’s research and experience, as well as his application of this tri-modal procedure, has led to significant improvements in survival rates among malignant pleural mesothelioma patients.

In addition, Sugarbaker’s research focusing on the better tailoring of cancer drugs to individual patients was profiled in the Wall Street Journal in 2008. As the leader of a small study at Brigham and Women’s concerning genetic mutations in cancer cells, Sugarbaker’s team discovered that every patient’s tumor boasted a different group of mutated genes and that no gene was mutated in more than one patient, explaining why chemo works for some and not for others. The research team argues that the research of these mutated genes in each cancer patient would better assist doctors in choosing the correct drug(s) for treatment and, hence, better the prognosis for many patients.

Additional Work

In addition to his surgical work and laboratory research, Dr. Sugarbaker also travels worldwide to deliver lectures on the topic of mesothelioma treatment, including his approach in particular. He has been the keynote speaker at many mesothelioma-related functions including not only symposiums for medical professionals but also conferences for mesothelioma patients and their families.

In an effort to address the growing number of mesothelioma cases worldwide, Dr. Sugarbaker founded the International Mesothelioma Program at the Brigham, focused not only on treatment and research of the disease but also on the support of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma as well as their families. The program - made up of a multi-disciplinary team of doctors from some of the Boston area’s best institutions - strives to develop new treatment strategies that will extend life expectancies for mesothelioma victims and brings together a wide array of researchers who can work in tandem to translate their findings into better patient care for those with the disease. The program also employs social workers, palliative care professionals, and spiritual counselors to offer emotional support to those afflicted with the disease in hopes of improving quality of life for victims of mesothelioma. In addition, by building a database of those with the disease, the International Pleural Mesothelioma Program hopes to establish satellite centers in selected hospitals where the incidence of the disease is high, creating a far-reaching network of professionals who can collaborate with each other to establish consistent protocols for treating this aggressive from of cancer.

Now, as the leader of the new comprehensive lung disease center at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Sugarbaker is looking forward to the opportunity of utilizing both clinical and translational research to develop new and more effective treatments for mesothelioma with a goal of getting these innovative treatments to patients as soon as possible.

In addition to his work with mesothelioma patients, Dr. Sugarbaker treats those with congenital chest wall deformities, performs volume reduction emphysema surgery, and also focuses on the treatment of individuals with esophageal cancer and a variety of other motility disorders.

Dr. Sugarbaker is a member of The Cardiothoracic Surgery Network and is Vice President of the Graham Education and Research Foundation committee. Dr. Sugarbaker’s research and clinical experience has also earned him recognition at both national and international levels. He has been named one of “America’s Top Doctors” by Castle Connolly annually since 2002, earning special distinction in 2007 and 2009.


Phase III Intergroup Study of Talc Poudrage vs Talc Slurry Sclerosis for Malignant Pleural Effusion* Carolyn M. Dresler, MD; Jemi Olak, MD, FCCP; James E. Herndon, II, PhD; William G. Richards, PhD; Ernest Scalzetti, MD; Stewart B. Fleishman, MD; Kemp H. Kernstine, MD, PhD, FCCP; Todd Demmy, MD, FCCP; David M. Jablons, MD, FCCP; Leslie Kohman, MD, FCCP; Thomas M. Daniel, MD; George B. Haasler, MD, FCCP; David J. Sugarbaker, MD; for the Cooperative Groups Cancer and Leukemia Group B, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, North Central Cooperative Oncology Group, and the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group, (Chest. 2005;127:909-915.) - 2005 American College of Chest Physicians

Phase III Trial of Trimodality Therapy With Cisplatin, Fluorouracil, Radiotherapy, and Surgery Compared With Surgery Alone for Esophageal Cancer: CALGB 9781, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 26, No 7 (March 1), 2008: pp. 1086-1092 - 2008 American Society of Clinical Oncology.

DOI: 1 Phase I to II Study of Pleurectomy/Decortication and Intraoperative Intracavitary Hyperthermic Cisplatin Lavage for Mesothelioma - Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 24, No 10 (April 1), 2006: pp. 1561-1567

Prevention, early detection, and management of complications after 328 consecutive extrapleural pneumonectomies - J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2004;128:138-146

Pleural Biopsy: A Reliable Method for Determining the Diagnosis But Not Subtype in Mesothelioma - Ann Thorac Surg 2004;78:1774-1776

Resection margins, extrapleural nodal status, and cell type determine postoperativ long-term survival in trimodality therapy of malignant pleural mesothelioma: results in 183 patients - J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 1999;117:54-65

Pleuropneumonectomy in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. - Chest. 1999 Dec;116(6 Suppl):450S-454S.

Extrapleural pneumonectomy in the setting of multimodality therapy for diffuse malignant pleural mesothelioma. - Semin Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1997 Oct;9(4):373-82

Extrapleural pneumonectomy, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy in the treatment of diffuse malignant pleural mesothelioma. - J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1991 Jul;102(1):10-4; discussion 14-50.1200/JCO.2007.12.9593



Baylor College of Medicine

Baylor College of Medicine News

Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Department of Thoracic Surgery. Boston, MA.

Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Department of Thoracic Surgery/Thoracic Oncology

Dr. David J. Sugarbaker. Richard E. Wilson Professor of Surgery. Harvard Medical School. Boston, MA

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