Remembering Dr. David Sugarbaker

Dr. David Sugarbaker was known and respected for developing the life-extending extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) surgery. He successfully treated thousands of pleural mesothelioma patients before his passing in 2018. His patients extended their lives, and many of them went on to become mesothelioma survivors.

Dr. David Sugarbaker, the pleural mesothelioma treatment pioneer, has died at the age of 65.

Dr. David Sugarbaker – A Pioneer in Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment

His professional experience, specialized knowledge and innovation made Dr. Sugarbaker one of the most influential doctors for patients with mesothelioma. Today, his legacy lives on as his innovations are still used to treat mesothelioma and extend life expectancies.

“As I say to patients, ‘when hope is part of the equation, anything is possible.’ I remain optimistic that we can, in the next decade, put together the right combination of patients and treatments to effect a cure, which is our holy grail,” -Dr. David Sugarbaker.

Dr. Sugarbaker’s Background

Was Dr. Sugarbaker destined to become a leading expert in mesothelioma? It certainly seems that way.

Dr. David Sugarbaker is one of five Sugarbaker siblings who became doctors, including Dr. Paul Sugarbaker. All were drawn to surgery at a young age, following in the footsteps of their surgeon father.

“My father and two [older] brothers were excellent role models for me. Medicine had a very strong influence on my early life. I spent a lot of my early years in high school and college helping my father in his operating room, at the hospital, often driving with him to see patients outside of our hometown as well. Everybody in our family was very much involved in his surgical practice,” said Dr. Sugarbaker.

Dr. Sugarbaker went to Cornell University Medical School, then completed his residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Dr. Sugarbaker worked at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for 25 years and made an immense impact on the medical community during that time. He was recruited as Chief of Thoracic Surgery, a brand new division at the time. In no time, Dr. Sugarbaker turned the department into one of the top cancer programs in the world.

In addition to his own accomplishments, Dr. Sugarbaker mentored other doctors who have gone on to make notable contributions toward mesothelioma research and treatment options. These doctors include Dr. David Harpole Jr., Dr. David Jablons, and Dr. Abraham “Avi” Lebenthal.

“He is Mr. Mesothelioma. In this field, he is the gold standard. I don’t think you’ll get any argument on that,” said Dr. Lebenthal, reflecting on Dr. Sugarbaker’s medical contributions.

Professional Experience

Dr. David Sugarbaker served as the Head of Thoracic Surgery at the Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Here, he performed life-saving surgical procedures on mesothelioma patients and led the institute’s mesothelioma clinical research program.

Dr. Sugarbaker received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical School and completed a residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Sugarbaker went on to complete additional residencies in cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Toronto.

In 2002, Dr. Sugarbaker founded the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP), a world-class mesothelioma treatment and research program. The IMP was formed in response to the increasing global rates of mesothelioma. The IMP has been dedicated to ongoing treatment solutions. It has treated countless international mesothelioma patients.

With over 35 of years of practice, Dr. Sugarbaker’s professional experience helped him successfully treat thousands of patients with this rare disease.

Specialized Knowledge

Dr. Sugarbaker dedicated his professional career to studying and treating mesothelioma. The specialized knowledge he gained helped him understand this complex disease better than anyone else in the field. With this expertise, Dr. Sugarbaker developed and provided the best treatment plans to his patients. He specialized in treating stage 1 and 2 pleural mesothelioma patients.

One of his major accomplishments was developing the extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), a life-saving surgical procedure for pleural mesothelioma patients. Dr. Sugarbaker developed this procedure with the goal of drastically increasing patient survival rates and extending individual life expectancies. EPP has proven to be especially successful when performed in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This is a staple treatment plan provided to pleural mesothelioma patients.

Dr. Sugarbaker dedicated his life to sharing his years of expertise with the next generation of thoracic surgeons. He demonstrated his commitment by serving as a professor of thoracic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. His past role as a professor of surgical oncology at Harvard Medical School also shows this dedication.

From Innovation to Legacy

Dr. Sugarbaker was committed to more than just treating current patients. He also worked tirelessly to develop better treatment procedures for future mesothelioma patients. The team at the Mesothelioma Center at Baylor College of Medicine greatly benefitted from his leadership. Today, the team continues to dedicate itself to ongoing research. They live out Dr. Sugarbaker’s legacy by working to improve curative surgical procedures and reduce mesothelioma recurrence.

Dr. Sugarbaker believed in building a foundation of innovative research at the Mesothelioma Treatment Center. A new clinical research study is underway at Baylor College of Medicine to assess a treatment option that uses a combination of chemotherapy drugs delivered into the chest during surgery. This innovative treatment procedure aims to minimize side effects and reduce rates of recurrence while increasing survival rates and postoperative quality of life.

Clinical trials involving advanced immunotherapy treatments are underway at Baylor College of Medicine as well.

Ask your physician about getting a referral to the team at Baylor College of Medicine or contact the Mesothelioma Treatment Center at Baylor Clinic today.

Mesothelioma Support Team

Mesothelioma Hope was founded by a team of advocates to educate people about this aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelioma affects thousands of people each year. We help give hope to those impacted by mesothelioma.

View 7 References
  1. https://www.bcm.edu/people/view/david-sugarbaker-m-d/physicians-mesothelioma-treatment-center/8a46e330-b193-11e3-a42d-005056b104be/547c9fbb-ed54-4f72-8439-10990a1612dc

  2. The IMP Program

  3. https://www.bcm.edu/healthcare/care-centers/mesothelioma-treatment-center

  4. https://www.bcm.edu/news/surgery/mesothelioma-treatment-center-new-study

  5. https://www.bcm.edu/news/lung/mesothelioma-treatment-center-clinical-trial

  6. TMC News. “David J Sugarbaker, M.D.” Retrieved from http://www.tmc.edu/news/2015/02/david-j-sugarbaker-m-d/. Accessed on November 11th, 2017.

  7. Dr. David Sugarbaker. “Honors & Rewards.” Retrieved from http://drdavidsugarbaker.org/honors-and-rewards/. Accessed on November 11th, 2017.

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