Dr. Joseph Friedberg

Dr. Joseph Friedberg is an innovative thoracic surgeon who is attempting to pioneer new treatments for lung cancers, with a focus on mesothelioma. He is an advocate for lung-sparing surgeries for pleural mesothelioma, and believes keeping both lungs greatly contributes to a patient’s quality of life.

Dr. Friedberg is in the process of developing a tumor vaccine that can be used with photodynamic therapy to treat mesothelioma, which targets cancer cells with light-sensitive medication. He is also inventing a brand-new mesothelioma treatment called photobrachytherapy.

“I would say this is one of the most lethal cancers known to man. There’s a pressing need for new and innovative treatments.” -Dr. Joseph Friedberg

Dr. Friedberg has 15 years of medical education at Harvard Medical School, giving him the knowledge and foundation he needed to later found the Mesothelioma and Pleural program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Friedberg’s Location

University of Maryland

Marlene & Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center

22 S. Greene Street

Baltimore, MD, 21201


Dr. Friedberg’s Career Highlights

  • Developing new photodynamic therapies to treat mesothelioma
  • Pioneered photodynamic therapy as a mesothelioma treatment
  • Founded the University of Pennsylvania Mesothelioma and Pleural Program
  • Currently leads the Marlene & Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • First fellow in the late Dr. David Sugarbaker’s thoracic tract program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which would become respected as one of the world’s top mesothelioma training centers

“Being a surgeon is the greatest of privileges. That degree of responsibility for, and trust from, another person is indescribable.” -Dr. Joseph Friedberg

Dr. Friedberg’s Background

Dr. Joseph Friedberg began his education at the University of Pennsylvania in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, where he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in science. He then obtained his medical degree from Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Friedberg stayed at Harvard Medical School as a research fellow at the Greenebaum Cancer Center, before obtaining an extensive education from Massachusetts General Hospital. This education included a surgical internship, three residencies, and a research fellowship.

In 1995, Dr. Friedberg began a cardiothoracic surgery fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he worked under the late Dr. Sugarbaker as the first thoracic-track fellow. It was here that he became familiar with pleural mesothelioma and found his passion for treating lung cancer.

Over the next two decades, Dr. Friedberg helped develop two world-class mesothelioma programs. First, Dr. Friedberg pioneered photodynamic therapy, which contributed to the success and respect of Abramson Cancer Center’s mesothelioma program. Afterwards, Dr. Friedberg joined Penn Presbyterian Medical Center as their chief of thoracic surgery, where he founded the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Disease Program.

As of 2014, Dr. Friedberg has been working at the University of Maryland’s Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC), leading the center, treating patients and developing new mesothelioma therapies that may someday cure the disease.

Medical Specializations

Dr. Joseph Friedberg is a board-certified thoracic surgeon who specializes in lung cancer, including mesothelioma. He has spent a great deal of his career focused on photodynamic therapies and developing new mesothelioma treatment options.

Dr. Friedberg is also talented in a wide range of surgical techniques, including video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), and both minimally invasive and open chest surgery.

Dr. Friedberg’s Career Accomplishments

Dr. Friedberg was the first fellow in the thoracic surgery tract at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, hand-selected for the fellowship by renowned mesothelioma expert Dr. David Sugarbaker. Today, he leads the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center’s multidisciplinary cancer team, which has one of the nation’s best mesothelioma programs.

Dr. Friedberg became internationally recognized for his work with mesothelioma when he pioneered the use of photodynamic therapy as a treatment option. He has since built on that foundation and is in the process of developing a brand-new treatment for mesothelioma, called photobrachytherapy.

Beyond his focus on mesothelioma, Dr. Friedberg is researching several novel treatments for thoracic conditions. These include inhaled sealants to repair pulmonary air leaks, a device that could control blood vessels, an innovative way of intubating patients’ airways, and an improved surgical drain. All of these inventions speak to Dr. Friedberg’s ability to solve existing problems with fresh ideas.

Awards & Honours

  • Best Doctors in America
  • America’s Top Doctors
  • America’s Top Doctors for Cancer
  • Philadelphia Magazine’s Top Doctors
  • Super Doc
  • ACS Fellow
  • CMS Stage 1 HER

Dr. Friedberg’s Current Work

Dr. Friedberg is the head of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine. He is also the Charles Reid Edwards Professor of Surgery, an endowment position that has been created through the support of donors.

Dr. Friedberg has created a new treatment for mesothelioma called photobrachytherapy, which combines immunotherapy, nanoparticles, radioisotopes and photosensitizers. The procedure involves placing radioactive materials into a patient’s body and then using light beams to create biochemical reactions that target mesothelioma.

Dr. Friedberg is a member of several professional associations include:

  • American College of Chest Physicians
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • American Association of Thoracic Surgeons

Featured Publication by Dr. Friedberg

The two primary surgical techniques for treating malignant pleural mesothelioma, extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) and pleurectomy/decortication (P/D), have resulted in great controversy amongst mesothelioma experts. Advocates for both techniques claim their preference is superior in improving patient quality and length of life after surgery. Dr. Friedberg conducted a formal study that reviewed the results of 1307 patients who received mesothelioma surgery in an attempt to determine which surgical technique is the best.

271 of the patients received EPP, while the remaining 1036 received P/D, as their treatment. While P/D has been the recent procedure of choice, the study concluded that this seemed to be influenced by geographic and sociodemographic influencers. Individuals who lived in rural areas, were further from hospitals, and received treatment at an academic hospital, were more likely to receive EPP. There was no significant difference in deaths within 30 days, or readmission rates, while EPP patients survived an average of only three months longer than those who received P/D. Ultimately, the study concludes that neither procedure is statistically more effective than the other.

Dr. Friedberg’s Healing Philosophy

Dr. Friedberg puts the patient at the center of his care decisions, and is an advocate for patient quality of life. He has been an influencer in regards to lung-sparing mesothelioma treatments and continues to work towards improved treatment options that are best for the patients’ overall well-being.

The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center’s mesothelioma mission is to “provide the finest care available today for mesothelioma and thoracic oncology patients, and to develop even better treatments for tomorrow.” Dr. Friedberg embodies this vision as he actively treats his patients and works towards novel treatments that will improve patient outcomes in the future.

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 5 References
  1. University of Maryland Medical Center. “Joseph Friedberg, MD.” Retrieved from https://findadoctor.umm.edu/details/24854/joseph-friedberg-cancer-general_surgery-surgical_services-thoracic_surgery-baltimore-bel_air-glen_burnie-towson. Accessed on November 27th, 2017.

  2. University of Maryland School of Medicine. “The Road From Emmaus.” Retrieved from http://news.medschool.umaryland.edu/?a=3370&z=41. Accessed on November 27th, 2017.

  3. U.S. Health News. “Dr. Joseph Friedberg.” Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/doctors/joseph-friedberg-9681. Accessed on November 27th, 2017.

  4. University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Joseph S. Friedberg.” Retrieved from http://www.medschool.umaryland.edu/profiles/Friedberg-Joseph/. Accessed on November 27th, 2017.

  5. University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from http://www.umm.edu/programs/cancer/services/mesothelioma. Accessed on December 3rd, 2017.

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