Free Mesothelioma Information Packet

Dr. David Sugarbaker


In the world of thoracic oncology, Dr. David Sugarbaker has few equals in his research and expertise within the field. A complicated and exact field, thoracic oncology is emerging as one of the great frontiers in cancer research. The research and studies conducted by Dr. Sugarbaker are at the forefront of the thoracic oncology field, and, in particular, Dr. Sugarbaker and his research staff are focused on the diagnosis and treatment of malignant mesothelioma.

Dr. Sugarbaker graduated from Cornell University Medical College in 1979 and had residencies at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Toronto General Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital. He also participated in fellowships at The Charles A. Dana Research Institute at Beth Israel Hospital and the Harvard Medical School, as well as Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Sugarbaker received his initial surgical board certification in 1979 and his certification in thoracic surgery in 1989. He has served as the Assistant and Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and how holds the title of Richard E. Wilson Professor of Surgical Oncology at Harvard Medical School, a title which he was given in 1999. Dr. Sugarbaker also holds the position of Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is currently based out ofDana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts.

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Mesothelioma is typically developed by those who have had occupational exposure to asbestos, including construction and shipyard workers and Navy veterans. Until recently, many mesothelioma patients felt there was simply no hope. Many newly diagnosed mesothelioma patients felt that there was a lack of information and support available to them. Dr. Sugarbaker is leading the fight against mesothelioma, and is a trusted and well-respected authority on the treatment of this disease.

Prior to Dr. Sugarbaker’s foray into mesothelioma treatment, many patients felt that their cases were hopeless unless they were eligible for surgical procedures. For these patients, surgery was not an option because the affected area is too large or the cancer has expanded to other parts of the body where surgery would be far too hazardous. Dr. Sugarbaker has dedicated his practice to finding new methods of mesothelioma treatment, and is at the forefront of a new multi-modality treatment program which integrates certain aspects of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy into a patient’s treatment program. By incorporating several methods of treatment, a patient has more options and more opportunities for success as they navigate their battle with cancer.

One example of Dr. Sugarbaker’s multi-modality treatment is the combination of surgery and radiation. Prior to this mesothelioma treatment method, those with tumors too large for surgical removal were simply treated with chemotherapy or radiation with the hopes that killing some cancer cells would prolong the patient’s life expectancy. Dr. Sugarbaker’s approach involves the administration of radiation in several sessions prior to surgery, which causes a decrease in tumor size. Once the tumor’s size has decreased, the patient can then undergo surgery to remove affected areas. Other forms of multi-modality treatment include chemotherapy and surgery, which involves the use of chemo after resection of the tumor, which leads to a longer period between surgery and possible recurrence of cancer.

Dr. Sugarbaker’s ultimate goal is to discover more successful methods of treating mesothelioma, as well as discovering a potential cure. In an effort to accomplish both of these goals, he has founded the International Pleural Mesothelioma Program, which involves clinical study and laboratory research focused on improving life expectancies in patients suffering from this type of cancer. In addition to this program, Dr. Sugarbaker has also developed several others, including the Brigham Lung Transplant Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He serves as Chair of Surgery Committee for the Cancer and Leukemia Group and is also actively involved in laboratory research.


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: 10.1200/JCO.2007.12.9593

Prevention, early detection, and management of complications after 328 consecutive extrapleural pneumonectomies . Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery , Volume 128 , Issue 1 , Pages 138 - 146 D . Sugarbaker , M . Jaklitsch , R . Bueno , W . Richards , J . Lukanich , S . Mentzer , Y . Colson , P . Linden , M . Chang , L . Capalbo

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 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 14-5

  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Physician Profile. David J. Sugarbaker

Last modified: April 15, 2011.