Dr. David Sugarbaker, internationally recognized as one of the most prolific mesothelioma doctors in the world, has died at the age of 65.

It’s difficult to put into context the impact that Dr. Sugarbaker had throughout his career, which he dedicated to treating patients with pleural mesothelioma. Known colloquially among his peers and patients as ‘Mr. Mesothelioma’, Dr. Sugarbaker devoted his profession to tackling new procedures for mesothelioma patients.

Dr. Sugarbaker’s EPP Surgery Saved Patient Lives

When he wasn’t in surgery himself, he also trained physicians in the complicated and relatively new extrapleural pneumonectomy procedure (EPP), which he developed in the 1990s. His pioneering EPP surgery has always been controversial, to say the least, but has indisputably decreased mesothelioma mortality rates across the US.

The surgery involves removing the entire lung, pleural lining, local lymph nodes and parts of the diaphragm to ensure complete resection. In 1996, he began working with a ‘trimodal treatment approach,’ which combined EPP with complementary therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation.

Dr. Sugarbaker found the trimodal treatment approach improved survival rates for pleural mesothelioma patients, with 74% of his patients living for at least 2 years after the operation.

About Dr. Sugarbaker

Dr. David Sugarbaker studied at Wheaton College and the Cornell University Medical College, graduating in 1979. He then participated in surgical residencies at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and Toronto General Hospital. In 1988, Dr. Sugarbaker began focusing his career on the treatment of pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer many oncologists will never come across in their careers.

Over the past 30 years, he has helped countless families cope with the debilitating disease and worked to improve mortality rates through his advanced treatments.

In 2002 he founded the International Mesothelioma Program, an organization with the goal of finding a cure for pleural mesothelioma. To this day the program attracts patients from all around the world who are willing to take part in clinical trials to improve the field of study for future generations.

Leaving a Legacy of Hope

Very few doctors specialize in the treatment of mesothelioma because, at present, there is no cure. Many procedures are down to trial and error, which deters a lot of doctors because the results can often be disheartening. Dr. Sugarbaker is quoted as saying: “People didn’t want to touch it… I wanted to help these patients”.

As a result of his perseverance, he has extended the lives of hundreds of patients across the US, and his research will undoubtedly save thousands more around the globe.  

Dr. Sugarbaker’s most recent post was as director of the Mesothelioma Treatment Centre and Lung Institute at Bayer College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. His patients and staff will undoubtedly be devastated by the death of a man who worked so tirelessly to save the lives of others.

Our thoughts are with Dr. David Sugarbaker’s family at this heartbreaking time, including his brother, Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, who is a top peritoneal mesothelioma surgeon at Washington DC Cancer Institute at Washington Hospital Centre. Dr. David Sugarbaker dedicated his life to helping patients cope with such a devastating illness, and many will mourn his unexpected death.

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Sources
  1. Baylor College of Medicine, "David J Sugarbaker, M.D.". Retrieved from: https://www.bcm.edu/people/view/david-sugarbaker-m-d/8a46e330-b193-11e3-a42d-005056b104be. Accessed on August 30, 2018.

Last modified: January 24, 2019