- Specialty Peritoneal Mesothelioma
- Procedure Cytoreduction with Heated Chemotherapy (HIPEC)
- Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey 195 Little Albany Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08903
About Dr. Alexander
Dr. Richard Alexander — Chief Surgical Officer at Rutgers Cancer Institute in New Jersey — is both a skilled surgeon and a passionate researcher.
He chose to specialize in peritoneal mesothelioma after discovering how pessimistic other doctors were about the disease. He wants to help patients to live longer and have a better quality of life, and he believes that one day a cure will be found.
Dr. Alexander has worked tirelessly to find a cure, and he is known internationally for his efforts.
Over the course of his career, he has discovered the link between specific proteins and mesothelioma. This discovery is paving the way for new kinds of treatments that will help stop mesothelioma tumors from growing.
He is also dedicated to improving the effectiveness of the current standard surgery for peritoneal mesothelioma — a combination of cytoreduction surgery and heated chemotherapy drugs applied directly to the abdominal cavity.
On top of his clinical trials focusing on proteins, Dr. Alexander has published over 250 peer-reviewed articles on cancer research, including “Surgical Treatment of Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma: Past, Present, and Future” in 2010. He has also written 50 book chapters in a variety of publications.
His work is read all over the world, and he had, thus far, lectured in 17 countries. He currently serves on the editorial board of ‘Surgery,’ a renowned medical journal. He has also spent time lecturing on the topic of peritoneal mesothelioma in the United States and abroad.
After Dr. Alexander received his medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine, where he served as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy for 8 years.
During his time of service, he worked out of the Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda while he finished his general surgery residency. He then spent time working as a medical officer aboard the USS Mt. Whitney and the USS Midway.
After his military service, he began working at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, where he completed his fellowship in surgical oncology. He then returned to military service for another 4 years, serving as Commander at the Walter Reed Medical Center.
Once his second stint in the military was over, he went to work for the Surgery Branch of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
During his 16 years at the NCI, he held several notable positions. He was the chief of the surgical metabolism area, chairman of the gastrointestinal malignancies section, and deputy director of the Center for Cancer Research.
While working at the NCI, he was also a professor and associate chair of clinical research for the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery.
He instructed teams researching proteins linked to mesothelioma. His teams created internationally recognized research programs for cancer patients.
In 2017, he began working as the Chief Surgical Officer of the Rutgers Cancer Institute in New Jersey.
Since his early days in general surgery, Dr. Alexander has been passionate about raising funds for cancer research. He has spoken at many international events to raise awareness of incurable diseases that he believes should become a priority.
For every 100 cancer research proposals that are submitted to the government for funding, only 8 are successful. Such a low percentage is not good enough for Dr. Alexander, and he continues to campaign for better government subsidies.
Speaking at the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma in 2008 on behalf of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, Dr. Alexander said:
”Where are the roadblocks to progress in cancer research? I would maintain that it’s not due to insufficient facilities—every research facility in this country is capable of doing more. We don’t have a lack of ideas—we have the best minds in science working in cancer research. The real problem is the lack of funds. It is the fuel to drive the discovery engine forward that we are now missing. We are facing a crisis in cancer research.”
He believes that cancer research in the US needs to be a higher priority and actively seeks to find resources that will benefit patients all over the world.
Awards & Honors
- National Institutes of Health Individual Merit Award 2005
- Fellow of the American College of Surgeons
- Fellow of the American Surgical Association
- Fellow of the Society of Surgical Oncology
- Honorary Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (Glasgow)
- Chair of the Research Committee for the Society of Surgical Oncologists
- Chair of the board for the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
Dr. Alexander’s area of expertise is peritoneal mesothelioma — asbestos-caused cancer affecting the peritoneum (the abdominal lining).
As part of his treatment routine, he focuses on a combination of cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). Though a fairly common combination, it’s still considered a risky procedure. Many specialists feel the survival rate is too low to justify using it.
He is continuously researching and refining his treatment methods to make them safer and more effective.
Cytoreductive Surgery With HIPEC
In peritoneal mesothelioma, the tumors grow inside the lining of the abdomen. Unlike other types of cancer, the tumors do not form one large mass — it produces many small tumors throughout the lining, and some of these tumors are too small to see.
Because of how peritoneal mesothelioma tumors grow, cytoreductive surgery is not able to remove all of the cancer from the abdomen. During surgery (which can take up to 12 hours), Dr. Alexander removes all visible tumors then attempts to kill the remaining cells with HIPEC.
In HIPEC, the abdominal cavity is filled with a heated solution of chemotherapy. The drugs attack and kill the quickly dividing cancer cells for about 90 minutes until the solution is drained from the abdomen.
Because the chemotherapy drugs are applied directly to the cancer cells, HIPEC has fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy treatments.
Targeted Therapy Research
While Dr. Alexander’s studies on proteins are still in the preclinical stage, he has done extensive work with these targeted therapies — drugs that eliminate the proteins cancer needs to grow.
During preclinical trials, it has been discovered that the peritoneal mesothelioma cells stopped multiplying when certain proteins were killed by the drugs.
Because of the positive preclinical results, his research is moving onto clinical trials. During clinical trials, the drugs are tried on peritoneal mesothelioma patients to find out if the medicine works the same way inside of a human as it does in a mouse or culture dish.
Getting Specialized Mesothelioma Treatment
Receiving a peritoneal mesothelioma diagnosis is a hard and distressing time. It’s critical to find someone you trust — you want someone who is knowledgeable, experienced, and kind.
If you choose to work with Dr. Alexander, you can know that he is one of the leading experts in peritoneal mesothelioma in the country. He is both an excellent surgeon and a passionate researcher.
For those reasons, you can trust that he knows the effectiveness of the procedures he is recommending. You can be certain these treatment options are effective at improving your quality of life.
If you have peritoneal mesothelioma, contact our team today for more information on seeing a specialist and qualifying for compensation to cover treatment costs.