Remembering Dr. David Sugarbaker

Dr. David J. Sugarbaker was a mesothelioma specialist best known for developing the life-extending extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) surgery. He successfully treated thousands of pleural mesothelioma cases before his passing in 2018 at the age of 65. His work impacted the lives of countless patients, some of whom went on to survive 10 years or longer with mesothelioma.

Dr. David Sugarbaker: Mesothelioma Treatment Pioneer

Dr. David Sugarbaker was one of the most influential mesothelioma doctors in the world. Many knew him as “Mr. Mesothelioma” for his in-depth knowledge of this rare and deadly cancer. He leaves an enduring legacy of medical innovations that 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

Although Dr. Sugarbaker is no longer with us, we can help you find other top mesothelioma specialists to treat your cancer. Try our Free Doctor Match today.

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Dr. Sugarbaker’s Background

Along with his brother, Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, Dr. David Sugarbaker was one of five siblings to pursue a career in medicine. All were drawn to surgery at a young age, following in the footsteps of their surgeon father.

Upon graduating from Cornell University Medical School, Dr. Sugarbaker completed his residency at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where his 25 years of service made an immense impact on the medical community. He also went on to complete a residency in cardiothoracic surgery at Toronto General Hospital and a pediatric cardiac surgery residency at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

During his time at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Sugarbaker was recruited as chief of thoracic surgery — a brand new division at the time — which he successfully developed into one of the top cancer programs in the world.

In 1992, Dr. Sugarbaker established the first general thoracic surgical residency track in the country. He mentored close to 100 surgical residents who are now top doctors and have made their own notable contributions toward mesothelioma treatment research.

Dr. Sugarbaker helped train mesothelioma specialists such as:

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Professional Experience

In 2002, Dr. Sugarbaker founded the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP), a world-class mesothelioma treatment and research program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The IMP was formed in response to increasing global rates of mesothelioma and is dedicated to developing new treatment options.

Dr. David Sugarbaker eventually stepped down from his role at Brigham and Women’s in 2014. He then served as the head of thoracic surgery at the Baylor College of Medicine Lung Institute in Houston, where he performed life-saving surgical procedures on mesothelioma patients and spearheaded the mesothelioma clinical research program.

With more than 35 of years of professional experience, Dr. Sugarbaker’s successfully treated thousands of patients with this rare form of cancer.

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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, particularly 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.

As a staple treatment plan provided to pleural mesothelioma patients, EPP has proven to be especially successful when performed in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Dr. Sugarbaker was also well known for developing a method to combine cytoreductive surgery with heated chemotherapy administered directly into the chest cavity of pleural mesothelioma patients.

As a professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and professor of surgical oncology at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Sugarbaker dedicated his life to sharing his years of expertise with the next generation of thoracic surgeons.

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Dr. David Sugarbaker’s Legacy

Dr. David Sugarbaker continually worked to develop better treatment procedures for future patients and spent his later years researching new drugs for malignant pleural mesothelioma.

“No one else in our lifetime had more impact on the field of thoracic surgery.”
–Joseph S. Coselli, M.D., FACS, on the late Dr. Sugarbaker

Through ongoing medical research, the team at the Mesothelioma Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas honors Dr. Sugarbaker’s legacy by working to improve curative surgical procedures and reduce mesothelioma recurrence.

Contact our Patient Advocates 24/7 to get help connecting with the team at Baylor College of Medicine and other leading mesothelioma specialists across the country.

Mesothelioma Hope has no affiliation with and is not endorsed or sponsored by Remembering Dr. David Sugarbaker. Any contact information listed is for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact Remembering Dr. David Sugarbaker directly.

Written by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 15 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

  1. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “What is mesothelioma?.” Retrieved from: Accessed on December 1, 2022.

  2. Coselli, JS. In Memoriam: David J. Sugarbaker, MD (1953–2018). Tex Heart Inst J. 2019 Feb 1;46(1):1–2. doi: 10.14503/THIJ-18-6879. PMCID: PMC6379011.

  3. International Mesothelioma Program. “Our Philosophy of Care.” Retrieved from: Accessed on December 1, 2022.

  4. Texas Medical Center. “David J Sugarbaker, M.D.” Retrieved from: Accessed on December 1, 2022.

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