A headshot of Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, a peritoneal mesothelioma doctor

Dr. Paul Sugarbaker

Oncology Surgeon

Address Cancer Institute at the Washington Hospital Center
106 Irving Street NW Suite 3900
Washington DC, 20010

Renowned Peritoneal Mesothelioma Specialist

After decades of treating peritoneal mesothelioma and other cancers, Dr. Paul Sugarbaker has retired. However, his innovative treatments will continue to be used to help patients.

Dr. Paul Sugarbaker is known worldwide as one of the premier specialists in malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. This illness develops in the peritoneum, the lining surrounding abdominal organs and the abdominal wall.

Did you know?

The mesothelioma community agrees that the best chances of long-term survival come from cancer surgery. Dr. Paul Sugarbaker was considered by many to be the top peritoneal mesothelioma surgical oncologist. Thanks to his treatments, some patients lived longer than 10 years after their diagnosis.

Until his retirement, Dr. Sugarbaker practiced at the Washington Cancer Institute at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center. He was also chief of the Peritoneal Surface Malignancy Program and the director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Malignancies.

Because peritoneal mesothelioma is so uncommon, patients with this disease have a better chance of survival if they see a specialist who has treated many other patients suffering from this type of mesothelioma.

For those with peritoneal mesothelioma, Dr. Sugarbaker was one of the top doctors to see for long-term survival. He was one of the leading authorities on peritoneal mesothelioma in the U.S., treating hundreds of patients.

Dr. Sugarbaker was also considered a premier specialist in treating other types of gastrointestinal cancers. This includes rare diseases like abdominal sarcomas, peritoneal carcinomatosis, and pseudomyxoma peritonei.

Dr. Sugarbaker received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College and trained at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. His brother is the late Dr. David Sugarbaker, a renowned pleural mesothelioma expert.

Research and Treatment Method

Dr. Paul Sugarbaker was actively involved in cancer therapy and founded the International Society of Regional Cancer Therapy. He was also a member of the editorial board of the European Journal of Surgical Oncology.

Further, he founded the Foundation for Applied Research in Gastrointestinal Oncology, which focuses on research efforts to cure various types of abdominal cancers.

“I think it can be cured. I’m convinced it can be cured. There will be a cure.”
—Dr. Paul Sugarbaker

He has been instrumental in developing an effective multimodal approach to mesothelioma. Multimodal treatment includes a combination of different types of mesothelioma treatments.

In Dr. Sugarbaker’s case, his research has led to a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. The key to this treatment is chemotherapy that is heated and applied during surgery. This procedure is called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). Some have called it the "Sugarbaker Procedure.”

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The Sugarbaker Procedure

Dr. Paul Sugarbaker has been instrumental in developing an effective multimodal treatment approach to mesothelioma. Multimodal therapy involves two or more treatments.

In Dr. Sugarbaker’s case, his research led to a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. The key to this treatment is chemotherapy. Heated chemotherapy called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is applied during surgery. This combination of surgery and chemotherapy is known as cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC.

The first step is cytoreductive surgery in which a surgeon tries to remove as many visible cancer tumors as possible. After the surgery, the surgeon places heated chemotherapy medication into the abdomen to kill any microscopic cancer cells that were left behind.

After 90 minutes, the doctor drains the chemotherapy solution and closes the abdominal wall, muscles, and abdominal skin. This is a radical procedure that can last up to 10 hours.

“Dr. Sugarbaker is a strong critic of surgical tradition,” the medical journal Future Medicine said. “He believes that major changes in the technology of cancer resection are necessary. His theme, ‘It’s what the surgeon doesn’t see that kills the patient,’ summarizes the concepts behind many of his publications both in the peer-reviewed medical literature and in the lay press.”

Is Cytoreduction With HIPEC Worth It?

Cytoreduction with HIPEC has been extensively researched and practiced by Dr. Paul Sugarbaker. This procedure gives patients the best chance at long-term survival. The latest research confirms this. In Dr. Sugarbaker’s opinion, the radical treatment option is absolutely necessary.

He has written nearly a thousand articles on treating various types of abdominal cancers. These include the efficacy of cytoreduction with HIPEC.

Did you know?

In a clinical review of cytoreduction with HIPEC, researchers found it greatly improved survival times. At the low end, patients lived at least 2.5 years. At the higher end, patients were living well beyond 7 years.

Advances in the Treatment of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

The development of cytoreduction with HIPEC was a major breakthrough in treating peritoneal mesothelioma. Further, the application of this procedure is only getting better.

Dr. Sugarbaker says that this type of treatment is most effective in treating younger patients and women. This is because they tolerate the aggressive procedure better. Older men are good candidates if they are generally healthy. Combining HIPEC with surgery is the most important part of extending survival.

“Patients who are young and strong, with a small volume of [mesothelioma] and a minimally aggressive disease have the best chance.”
–Dr. Paul Sugarbaker

Dr. Sugarbaker only performed cytoreduction with HIPEC on patients with the best chance of tolerating the procedure, looking at medical history, CT scans, and pathological reports to make the decision. This procedure is so aggressive and requires a long recovery time.

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Next Steps for Patients With Peritoneal Mesothelioma

As one of the best peritoneal mesothelioma surgeons in the world, Dr. Sugarbaker was dedicated to extending the lives of his patients.

Peritoneal mesothelioma patients chose Dr. Paul Sugarbaker because of his:

  • Decades of surgical experience
  • HIPEC expertise
  • Reputation for helping patients live longer

Dr. Sugarbaker knows what it takes to become a mesothelioma survivor, and thankfully he passed on many of his teachings to other top doctors in the field. Get your free Mesothelioma Veterans Packet now to see how you can connect with a peritoneal mesothelioma specialist and access life-saving treatments.


The Mesothelioma Veterans Center has no affiliation with and is not endorsed or sponsored by Dr. Paul Sugarbaker. The contact information above is listed for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact Dr. Paul Sugarbaker directly.

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. Canbay, E., Torun, B. C., Torun, E. S., & Yonemura, Y. (2015). Evolution of management in peritoneal surface malignancies. https://doi.org/10.5152/UCD.2016.3375. Accessed on March 1, 2024, 2024.
  2. Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. “Mesothelioma Symposium 2009 - Paul Sugarbaker, MD - Peritoneal Mesothelioma.” YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgHrIuox3. Accessed on March 1, 2024.