About Dr. Alexander
Dr. Richard Alexander is currently the Chief Surgical Officer at Rutgers Cancer Institute, New Jersey. He is known internationally for his clinical and translational research, particularly in the area of peritoneal mesothelioma. He is especially interested in refining one of the most popular medical procedures for the treatment of mesothelioma—cytoreduction with HIPEC (heated, direct chemotherapy). Thanks to his research, we now know much more about the molecular features of the disease than ever before.
Before moving to Rutgers, Dr. Alexander treated cancer patients at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.
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 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.
Dr. Alexander’s Location
Mesothelioma patients can work with Dr. Alexander at Rutgers Cancer Institute, New Jersey:
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
195 Little Albany Street
New Brunswick, NJ
Dr. Alexander’s Career Highlights
Dr. Alexander is well-known for his research into peritoneal mesothelioma. The results from his clinical trials have been acclaimed internationally.
Dr. Alexander’s other career highlights include:
- Successful clinical trial research into the understanding of molecular features of peritoneal mesothelioma.
- Identified PI3K pathway as a target for intervention in peritoneal mesothelioma.
- Written over 250 journal articles on cancer research.
- Lectured both in the US and internationally on the topic of peritoneal mesothelioma.
- Dedicated 16 years of research at the National Cancer Institute
- Served on the editorial boards of the Annals of Surgical Oncology and the Journal of Clinical Oncology
- Chair of the Meso Foundation Science Advisory Board
Dr. Alexander’s Background
Dr. Alexander studied for his medical degree at Georgetown University School of Medicine, before being commissioned in the US Navy for 8 years. During this time he completed his residency in general surgery as a medical officer at the Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda.
After leaving the Navy, he finished his fellowship in surgical oncology at the nationally recognized Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre, New York before joining the Navy once more as a Commander at the Walter Reed Medical Centre for 4 years.
Dr. Alexander became deputy director of the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research. While working at the NCI, Dr. Alexander made vast discoveries in the proteins that were essential to the growth of mesothelioma.
In his previous post as both a professor and Associate Chair of Clinical Research in the acclaimed Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, he worked on treatments to target these proteins.
Over his career, Dr. Alexander has spent 16 years at the National Institutes of Health as both Chief of the surgical metabolism area and chairman of the gastrointestinal malignancies section. Dr. Alexander moved to Rutgers in 2017 as Chief Surgical Officer.
Dr. Alexander specializes in treating peritoneal mesothelioma. His research has made significant advancement in the field through various clinical trials. His studies have all looked at the cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC. This surgery is commonly thought to be the best way to treat peritoneal mesothelioma, though it’s not without its risks and does not guarantee a significantly longer survival rate.
Dr. Alexander is also experienced in gastrointestinal cancers, metastatic or recurrent solid organ cancers, peritoneal surface metastases and endocrine and neuroendocrine tumors.
Cytoreductive surgery involves the complete removal of visible tumors in the lining of the abdomen (the peritoneum).The delicate process can take up to 12 hours to complete.
HIPEC (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy):
After the Cytoreductive surgery, a heated chemotherapy solution is poured into the cavity at high temperature. The direct impact of the chemotherapy boosts its effectiveness and kills any leftover cancer cells.
The combination of the cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC is a popular procedure, but many argue that there isn’t a high enough survival rate to justify the risky operation.
Dr. Alexander began collecting data in 2013 from a study of 211 peritoneal mesothelioma patients. After the two procedures, he looked at the factors that contributed to longer survival and discovered a protein that, when present, seemed to decrease the longevity of the patient. He is now discovering whether this protein can be blocked to increase the survival rate of peritoneal mesothelioma patients.
Awards and 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 Current Work
In a study of 41 patients who underwent cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC, the tumor samples showed similarities of genes expressions. These patterns helped Dr. Alexander to understand the growth of peritoneal mesothelioma, which he hopes will lead to better survival rates in the future.
Dr. Alexander is credited with discovering the link between specific proteins found in mesothelioma patients. While Dr. Alexander worked at the University of Maryland, he discovered that when these specific proteins were eliminated, the growth of mesothelioma was halted.
So far, his research has only been conducted in the lab on culture dishes and mice. But by continuing his research, Dr. Alexander hopes to make great leaps with this recent discovery. He is now moving onto clinical trials with peritoneal mesothelioma patients to test his theory.
In his current post at Rutgers as Chief Surgical Officer, Dr. Alexander aims to improve surgical methods for the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma to extend patient survival times. Dr. Alexander relishes his job as both a researcher and surgeon. It’s this attribute that makes him so dedicated to finding better ways to treat patients with mesothelioma.
Notable Work by Dr. Alexander
Dr. Alexander has published over 250 peer-reviewed articles, 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.