David Sugarbaker MD

Dr. David Sugarbaker (1953-2018)

Thoracic Surgeon

Address 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

Dr. Sugarbaker passed away at the age of 65. The Mesothelioma Veterans Center is exceedingly grateful for Dr. Sugarbaker's unwavering commitment to serving mesothelioma patients, many of whom were veterans. 

An Outstanding Pleural Mesothelioma Specialist

Patients with mesothelioma are dealing with a difficult and rare form of 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 various thoracic cancers, including those with pleural mesothelioma.

Dr. Sugarbaker was a leader in mesothelioma research and treating 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 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 type of mesothelioma treatment that combined surgery with aggressive chemotherapy. He used heated intraoperative chemotherapy (HIPEC) to rid the body of 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 was interested in managing pleural mesothelioma.

Dr. Sugarbaker’s focus in research was in the area of “trimodal therapy.” Trimodal therapy is a 3-pronged approach to treatment.

Trimodal therapy involves:

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

Dr. Sugarbaker felt that the trimodal approach gives his patients the best chance of 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 ensured his patients had access to support groups.

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

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Improving Survival Rates Through Research

Dr. Sugarbaker was instrumental in developing improved survival rates in patients suffering from pleural mesothelioma. He was closely involved in research tackling 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 families. 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 founded 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 treating 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 traveling 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 to specialize in treating all lung ailments. He moved there 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 from many ailments ranging from asthma to lung cancer. Chest-wall deformities and esophageal cancer are other points of focus at this center.

Dr. Sugarbaker was named one of “America’s Top Doctors.” He held this distinction as a leader in his field from 2002 until his passing in 2018. He wrote and co-authored many 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 world's best mesothelioma research and treatment centers. 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 30 years of surgical experience.
  • He offered multimodal treatment proven to lengthen survival times.
  • He cared about his patients and understood the difficulties that come with mesothelioma.

Thanks to Dr. Sugarbaker, some mesothelioma patients can survive for 10 years or longer. Get your free Mesothelioma Veterans Packet to learn more about mesothelioma treatment strategies and your treatment options.


The Mesothelioma Veterans Center is not affiliated with, endorsed, or sponsored by the late Dr. David Sugarbaker's estate. The contact information above is listed for informational purposes only.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

  1. National Cancer Institute. “Cancer Statistics.” Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics. Accessed on March 1, 2024.