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Dr. David Sugarbaker

Dr. David Sugarbaker

Patients with mesothelioma are dealing with a difficult and uncommon cancer that requires expertise not available in all parts of the United States. For individuals facing mesothelioma, you will need to see a specialist in the management of this condition. Fortunately, one such specialist in the treatment of mesothelioma is Dr. David Sugarbaker MD.

Dr. David Sugarbaker is active in thoracic surgery, being the Chief of General Thoracic Surgery, the Director of the Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine, and surgical professor at the college located in Houston, Texas. There, Dr. Sugarbaker sees patients with a variety of thoracic cancers, including men and women with pleural mesothelioma.

Dr. David Sugarbaker received much of his initial training at Wheaton College and the Cornell University Medical College, where he graduated in 1979. After graduation, he participated in a surgical residency program at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, the Toronto General Hospital, the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto.

Dr. Sugarbaker is a physician and surgeon who is world renowned because of his expertise in treating patients with mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer. He was instrumental in developing the first approach to the treatment of mesothelioma that combined surgery with aggressive chemotherapy in an attempt to rid the body of all of the mesothelioma cells.

Dr. Sugarbaker is a leader when it comes to mesothelioma research and the treatment of patients with mesothelioma. He has several leadership positions, including the following:

  • He is a professor of surgery and Chief of General Surgery at the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery, located in Houston, TX
  • He is the director of the Lung Institute at the Baylor College of Medicine
  • He is the Chief of Thoracic Surgery and executive Vice-Chair of the Department of Surgery at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts
  • He is the Chief of Surgical Services at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • He is a professor of surgery at the Harvard Medical School
  • He has been a speaker on mesothelioma at the 2011 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma

With his numerous affiliations, Dr. Sugarbaker has the opportunity to be at the forefront of mesothelioma research and is actively engaged in both research and treatment of the disease.

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

Dr. David Sugarbaker has a special interest in the management of pleural mesothelioma, which is mesothelioma of the lung cavity. He is one of the world’s leading experts in the care and treatment of patients suffering from mesothelioma. He has an active research program in the area of mesothelioma.

Dr. Sugarbaker’s focus in research is in the area of “tri-modal therapy” for patients with pleural mesothelioma. This is a type of treatment that involves performing aggressive surgery to remove all signs of cancer, chemotherapy to kill cells that were not removed in surgery, and radiation to the chest. Dr. Sugarbaker feels as though the tri-modal approach gives his mesothelioma patients the best chance of long lasting survival. Mesothelioma has no current cure, so the focus is currently on living as long as possible with the disease.

Dr. Sugarbaker is familiar with all of the modalities utilized in the treatment of patients with mesothelioma, including the following therapies:

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy
  • Pleurectomy with decortication procedure
  • Chemotherapy for mesothelioma
  • Radiation therapy for mesothelioma

Through intensive research and caring for mesothelioma patients, Dr. David Sugarbaker has been instrumental in the development of improved survival rates in patients suffering from pleural mesothelioma. He has been closely involved with a type of research that points to different genetic problems in the various mesothelioma cancer cells. Some cells respond well to chemotherapy, while other cells are more resistant.

Because of Dr. Sugarbaker’s research, it was able to be explained why some chemotherapy medications work for some mesothelioma patients, while others are resistant to the therapy. Through the research efforts, it was found that there are genetic mutations in the different mesothelioma cells that make them more sensitive or more resistant to the various kinds of chemotherapy treatments. This allows the chemotherapy to be specially tailored to the unique differences in mesothelioma patients, which has the end result of increasing the patients’ survival rates.

Dr. David Sugarbaker is world renowned for his expertise in treating mesothelioma. He travels all over the world, teaching other medical professionals about the treatment of mesothelioma and talking to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones about the disease. He has a unique approach to dealing with mesothelioma that he shares with others through his lecture circuit.

Dr. Sugarbaker is the original founder of the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, which has a particular focus on research of the various treatment modalities and the management of mesothelioma in various types of mesothelioma patients. The program at the International Mesothelioma Program involves the presence of a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals, each of whom plays an important role in the treatment of patients with malignant mesothelioma.

Dr. Sugarbaker is also working with the International Mesothelioma Program to establish satellite programs in other parts of the country, particularly in those areas of the world where the incidence of mesothelioma is the greatest. This helps mesothelioma patients get treatment without having to travel long distances for care.

Dr. Sugarbaker is the head of a recently established comprehensive lung disease center, which is located on the campus of the Baylor College of Medicine. Besides mesothelioma patients, the doctor treats patients suffering from congenital chest wall deformities, emphysema and patients suffering from disorders of the esophagus, including patients with esophageal cancer.

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

For a consultation with Dr. David Sugarbaker, you can contact his office at:

The Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery
One Baylor Plaza, Mail Stop BCM 390
Houston, TX 77030

The phone number to make an appointment is 713-798-6376.

Sources & Author Edited: May 16, 2016

About the Writer

Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

LCDR Carl Jewett is a retired Naval Officer, having served just under 24 years in the submarine force. He currently serves as a VA Accredited Claims Agent and as the Executive Director of the Veterans Assistance Network. He specializes in assisting veterans filing VA claims for asbestos-related disabilities such as mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer.

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