About Dr. Pingpank
Dr. James Pingpank is a surgical oncologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a top-ranked hospital.
He also works as an associate professor of surgery for the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine. He teaches the next generation of surgical oncologists to help find more effective treatment methods.
Throughout his career, he has worked with many patients suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma.
In addition to treating patients, Dr. Pingpank spends his time researching ways to improve the current standard of care for treating peritoneal mesothelioma.
Due to the limited studies available, he believes there is a lack of proper research about peritoneal mesothelioma. Earlier studies included few patients with peritoneal mesothelioma and most studies available involve patients with pleural mesothelioma.
Dr. Pingpank attended the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, DC, where he received his medical degree in 1992. From there he went to the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, CT where he completed his residency in surgery.
After his residency was over, Dr. Pingpank went to the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA where he completed a fellowship in surgical oncology.
He then took time to focus on research where he became a Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA.
In 2008, Dr. Pingpank joined the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center as a surgical oncologist, where he could continue to research and treat mesothelioma.
“UPMC is a recognized leader in the area of regional cancer therapies. I am delighted to join the team at The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.”
– Dr. James Pingpank
In addition to his patient work and research, Dr. Pingpank is an associate professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, where he is also assistant director of the Surgical Oncology Fellowship program.
Awards and Contributions
Dr. Pingpank has received several awards for his research and surgical skills:
- Two-time winner of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Center for Cancer Research
- Technology Transfer Award
- The Castle Connolly Regional Top Doctor award
- Four-time winner of the Patient’s Choice Award
- The Vital’s On-Time Doctor Award
- Two-time winner of the Compassionate Doctor Recognition
- He is an ACS Fellow
Dr. Pingpank’s research has been extensively published in peer-reviewed journals.
His work appears in:
- The American Surgeon
- The Journal of Clinical Oncology
- The Annals of Surgical Oncology
Dr. Pingpank is currently affiliated with several hospitals, including UPMC’s Magee-Women’s, Mercy, Presbyterian, Passavant, and Shadyside hospitals.
Dr. Pingpank is involved in several professional organizations, including:
- Member – American Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association
- Fellow – American College of Surgeons
- Member – American Society of Clinical Oncology
- Member – American Association for Cancer Research
Dr. James Pingpank’s Medical Specializations
Dr. Pingpank specializes in treating peritoneal mesothelioma. This type of cancer is caused when asbestos fibers become lodged in the peritoneum — the lining that covers the abdominal organs.
The body is unable to break down the asbestos fibers, and over time tumors can form where the asbestos fibers were lodged.
Peritoneal mesothelioma can take 20 to 50 years to show symptoms. This type of mesothelioma is relatively rare, and Dr. Pingpank is working to improve the understanding of the disease.
Over the course of his career, Dr. Pingpank has focused on researching peritoneal mesothelioma due to a lack of available information.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common form of mesothelioma — behind pleural mesothelioma.
The prognosis (outcome) for peritoneal mesothelioma is better than pleural because the treatments for peritoneal are generally more effective.
When Dr. Pingpank treats the mesothelioma tumors, he routinely discourages total abdominal irradiation because he doesn’t find it to be highly effective. He generally suggests cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC).
Treatment for Peritoneal Mesothelioma
The most effective form of treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma is cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy).
“We think that durable control of malignant peritoneal mesothelioma is possible for patients undergoing aggressive surgical therapy.”
– Dr. James Pingpank
Patients who receive combination therapy see an increase in their survival times of up to 50%. One study from 2007 showed a five-year survival rate in 70% of patients who receive cytoreduction and HIPEC.
Only patients with early-stage tumors can receive the benefits from the combination therapy. Dr. Pingpank is researching the method because not every patient responds well to cytoreductive surgery.
Cytoreductive Surgery and HIPEC
In cytoreductive surgery, Dr. Pingpank removes as much of the visible tumors as possible.
Unlike many other types of cancers, the tumors in mesothelioma do not form one giant mass. Instead, they spread out like a sheet throughout the abdominal lining.
Some of these tumors are too small for the surgeon to see, which is why cytoreduction only aims to remove visible tumors.
Doctors consider cytoreductive surgery successful if they can remove every cancer mass that is larger than 2 centimeters. Smaller tumors mean the patient is more likely to benefit from HIPEC.
After a patient has finished the cytoreductive surgery, the surgeon fills the abdominal cavity with a warmed chemotherapy cocktail to kill the remaining tumors.
Once the drugs have been in the cavity for around 60 to 90 minutes, the abdominal cavity is drained and rinsed.
One benefit of applying chemotherapy this way is the drugs are administered directly to the infected area without having to travel through the bloodstream. This means that doctors can use a higher dosage than usual which makes the procedure more effective.
Notable Work by Dr. Pingpank
The medical community widely accepts that cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy can be effective treatments for malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. However, it is a highly aggressive procedure, and not all patients are good candidates.
Dr. Pingpank and his team reviewed three genomic biomarkers, CDKN2A, NF2, and BAP1, which seem to have an impact on patient outcomes.
One of his studies concluded that specific genetic alterations to CDKN2A and NF2 tend to result in shorter progression-free and overall survival lengths and that these biomarkers should be considered while making treatment decisions for patients with mesothelioma.
This study will help oncologists and their patients make better decisions and choose the best treatment plan for their circumstance.
Working With Dr. Pingpank
Dr. Pingpank is a very knowledgeable, respectful, and kind physician who cares deeply about the well-being of his patients. His former patients have described him as “compassionate”, “knowledgeable”, and “friendly and caring.”
He spends as much time as possible with them to listen to their concerns, answer any questions they might have, and thoroughly explain the different procedure options.
If you would like more information about working with Dr. Pingpank or another peritoneal mesothelioma specialist, contact our team.