Dr. David Sugarbaker (1953-2018)

Dr. Sugarbaker passed away at the age of 65. We at the Mesothelioma Veterans Center are exceedingly grateful for his unwavering commitment to the service of mesothelioma patients, including many veterans. 

Doctor Profile

Specialty: Pleural Mesothelioma
Procedure: Extrapleural Pneumonectomy

The Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine
The Mesothelioma Treatment Center
Baylor St. Luke Medical Center
6620 Main St. Suite 1325
Houston, TX 77030

More Than Pleural Mesothelioma Specialist

Patients with mesothelioma are dealing with a difficult and uncommon cancer. This disease requires expertise not available in all parts of the United States. Dr. David Sugarbaker was one of the top surgeons in the country. Dr. Sugarbaker saw patients with a variety of thoracic cancers, including those with pleural mesothelioma.

Dr. Sugarbaker was a leader when it comes to mesothelioma research and the treatment of patients with mesothelioma.

He had several professional titles, including:

  • Chief of General Thoracic Surgery
  • Director of the Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine
  • Surgical Professor at Baylor College of Medicine

His past experience and titles included:

  • Chief of Thoracic Surgery and Executive Vice-Chair of the Department of Surgery at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chief of Surgical Services at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • Professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School

Dr. David Sugarbaker received much of his initial training at Wheaton College and the Cornell University Medical College. He graduated in 1979. After graduation, he participated in several surgical residency programs. He trained at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Toronto General Hospital.

Did you know?

Dr. Sugarbaker was instrumental in developing the first approach to the treatment of mesothelioma that combined surgery with aggressive chemotherapy. He used heated intraoperative chemotherapy to rid the body of all mesothelioma cells.

Dr. Sugarbaker’s Treatment Approach

With his numerous affiliations, Dr. David Sugarbaker was at the forefront of mesothelioma research. He was actively engaged in both research and treatment of the disease. Dr.  Sugarbaker had a special interest in the management of pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung. He was one of the world’s leading experts in the care and treatment of patients suffering from mesothelioma.

Dr. Sugarbaker’s focus in research was in the area of “trimodal therapy.” Trimodal therapy is a three-pronged approach to treatment.

Trimodal therapy involves:

  • Performing aggressive surgery to remove all signs of cancer
  • Using chemotherapy to kill cells that were not removed in surgery
  • Applying radiation to the chest

Dr. Sugarbaker felt that the trimodal approach gives his patients the best chance of long-lasting survival. He was familiar with all types of Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment, including the following therapies:

Dr. Sugarbaker placed a large amount of effort into patient support. Along with patient consultations and developing a treatment program, he made sure his patients had access to support groups. Emotional support for the patient and family is essential to approach treatment with the right attitude. It also provides peace of mind for everyone involved.

“Mesothelioma is not just a disease of the patient. It affects the entire family,” Dr. Sugarbaker said.

Improving Survival Rates Through Research

Dr. Sugarbaker was instrumental in the development of improved survival rates in patients suffering from pleural mesothelioma. He was closely involved in research tackling different genetic problems in mesothelioma cancer cells. He worked hard to learn why some cells respond well to chemotherapy, while other cells are more resistant.

The research found that there are genetic mutations in the different mesothelioma cells. These mutations make them sensitive or resistant to chemotherapy. This knowledge allows doctors to prescribe the right kind of chemotherapy drugs to their patients.

Dr. Sugarbaker traveled all over the world, spreading his research and expertise. He taught other medical professionals about treatment and talked to patients and family. He had a unique approach to dealing with mesothelioma that he shared with others through his lecture circuit.

Legacy Under the International Mesothelioma Program

Dr. Sugarbaker was the original founder of the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. This program has a particular focus on treatment research and disease management. The IMP has a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals, each of whom plays an important role in the treatment of patients with malignant mesothelioma.

Dr. Sugarbaker also worked with the IMP to establish satellite programs in other parts of the world. He wanted there to be cancer centers in areas where mesothelioma incidence is the highest. This helps mesothelioma patients get treatment without having to travel long distances for care.

Other Work

Dr. Sugarbaker was head of the Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine. Formed in 2015, it was the first center in Texas that specializes in treating all lung ailments. Dr. Sugarbaker moved here from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to start another state-of-the-art mesothelioma program. The Lung Institute, however, is more than a mesothelioma center. The Institute treats patients suffering many ailments ranging from asthma to lung cancer. Chest-wall deformities and esophageal cancer are other points of focus at this center.

In part because of his persistent work in the education of others on mesothelioma and in treating the disease, Dr. Sugarbaker was chosen as one of “America’s Top Doctors.” He held this distinction as a leader in his field since 2002 until his passing in 2018. He wrote and co-authored a large number of research articles on various types of lung diseases, including mesothelioma.

Dr. David Sugarbaker’s Patients

Many people believe that Dr. David Sugarbaker was the best Pleural Mesothelioma surgeon in the country. His legacy is built on several institutions that have become the best mesothelioma research and treatment centers in the world. His latest work has transformed Baylor into a top cancer center in the country for patients with mesothelioma.

Patients chose Dr. Sugarbaker because:

  • He had 3 decades of surgical experience.
  • He offered multimodal treatment proven to lengthen survival times.
  • He cared about his patients and understands the difficulties that come with mesothelioma.

There are mesothelioma patients surviving beyond 10 years and more thanks to Dr. Sugarbaker. His track record speaks for itself and patients know this. Get your free Mesothelioma Veterans Packet to learn more about mesothelioma treatment strategies and your treatment options.

We remember a great man who loved his patients and his work.