About Dr. Robert B. Cameron
- Founding Chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at West Los Angeles VA Medical Center
- Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Surgical Oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
As one of the leading experts on pleural mesothelioma, Dr. Robert B. Cameron is the Scientific Advisor for the Pacific Mesothelioma Center in Los Angeles. Having founded UCLA’s reputed mesothelioma program, Dr. Cameron remains an active director today. He also travels extensively throughout the U.S. to teach surgeons how to manage mesothelioma.
Dr. Cameron has been treating patients for over 20 years and is credited with inventing the pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) surgery that is now widely used to treat pleural mesothelioma. P/D is a lung-saving surgical procedure for pleural mesothelioma patients, where the lining of the affected lung is removed yet the lung itself remains intact.
As a board-certified general surgeon and cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Cameron has been involved in various studies for the National Cancer Institute, the Stanford University School of Medicine, the UCLA School of Medicine, and the UCSF School of Medicine.
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Dr. Cameron is a co-founder and former director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, the first medical research foundation and the only nonprofit organization committed to the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma. To date, the charity has been awarded a total of $22.5 million in grant funding.
His research has been published in a variety of scientific research papers and academic books related to cancer treatment of the lungs. He is also the editor of Practical Oncology, an academic journal.
Dr. Cameron is also known for his willingness to share his opinion and challenge existing protocols for mesothelioma treatment when patients’ well-being may be at stake. He is a talented thoracic surgeon with a wide range of medical interests, including thoracic cancers, robotic surgery, lung transplants, and chest malignancies.
Dr. Robert Cameron’s Professional Background
Dr. Cameron studied biology and medieval studies at Sanford University in 1976. In 1980, he attended medical school at the University of Michigan and UCLA, where he was elected to early membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society (a high-achieving group committed to preserving the ideals of medicine) following his second year.
Upon graduating in the top 4% of his class, Dr. Cameron completed a one-year internship in surgery at UCLA School of Medicine before deciding to stay on for a five-year residency in general surgery. He fulfilled this fellowship at the National Cancer Institute, which ignited his passion for finding a cure for rare types of cancer.
Following his UCLA residency, Dr. Cameron traveled to New York to begin a two-year fellowship in Thoracic Surgery at Cornell University Medical Center.
In September 1994, he became Chief of Thoracic Surgery at UCSF in San Francisco, transferring to the same role at UCLA in 1997.
His mesothelioma program strives to extend patients’ survival rates while maintaining a strong emphasis on quality of life.
Dr. Cameron’s Career Highlights
- Chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center
- Co-founder and former director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
- Founder and director of UCLA’s Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program
- Invented pleurectomy with decortication surgery for treating pleural mesothelioma
Awards & Honors
- ACS Fellow
- Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society – University of Michigan (top 4% of students)
- America’s Top Doctors
- Checkbook Top Doc
- Southern California Super Doctors
- Super Doctors
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Dr. Robert B. Cameron’s Medical Specializations
Dr. Cameron is credited with the invention of the P/D surgical procedure for mesothelioma — a lung-sparing curative surgery for pleural mesothelioma.
The procedure takes place in two parts and can last for a total of 5 hours:
- Pleurectomy: During the pleurectomy, the surgeon opens the chest or thoracic cavity to remove the lining of the lung. This operation will relieve the symptoms of the disease and extend the patient’s life, but it will not cure the cancer.
- Decortication: The surgeon scrapes the lining of the lung to remove as much of the cancer as possible, leaving the lung fully intact.
The P/D procedure was revolutionary, as it meant that the surgeon did not have to remove the lung to remove the cancerous cells — unlike the standard surgical procedure until then known as the extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP).
Not all patients are eligible to receive a P/D. But in a study of 100 patients, P/D successfully eased chest pain, coughs, and shortness of breath while treating the pleural masses.
To be eligible, a patient must be in the early stages of pleural mesothelioma and fit enough to undergo the stress of surgery.
Dr. Cameron is one of the most qualified surgeons to perform the lung-sparing P/D procedure. He uses emerging technologies such as immunotherapy — a novel treatment that boosts the patient’s immune system — to treat his patients.
“The most important recommendation to make [to mesothelioma patients], is that you should be seen at a mesothelioma center of excellence. That is a center that generally sees a lot of these patients on an annual basis.”
—Dr. Robert Cameron
In a 2013 study by a group of medical professionals, Dr. Cameron and his fellow surgeons examined the morbidity and mortality rate for P/D and EPP treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma. A total of 225 patients underwent the procedures, and the results showed that there was a higher rate of morbidity and mortality associated with the EPP, compared to Dr. Cameron’s P/D method.
Current medical technologies have advanced to the point where more procedures can be performed through incision surgeries, which Dr. Cameron has historically supported because of its minimized risks and recovery.
Dr. Cameron is one of the country’s top pleural mesothelioma specialists. His P/D method works by debulking the tumor. This means that although the tumor is never completely removed, the surgeon will destroy as much of the cancer as possible.
Like other renowned mesothelioma specialists, Dr. Cameron’s philosophy is that once mesothelioma has been resected (surgically removed), pleural mesothelioma can be managed as a chronic disease, much like diabetes.
Although it’s not possible to completely cure pleural mesothelioma, he believes it is controllable. His goal is to control the disease by removing as much as possible through surgery and then minimizing the remaining tumors through chemotherapy and radiation.
“Pleural mesothelioma is a very unusual and even rare cancer. It only occurs in approximately 2,000 to 3,000 people each year in the United States. The actual true number though is not really known, because it’s not really being tracked.”
– Dr. Robert Cameron
Dr. Cameron believes in maintenance therapy for pleural mesothelioma — an ongoing, daily medication to control the remaining mesothelioma cells and keep them at bay. His studies have proven that this method can work successfully for many years, and the patient can continue to live a relatively healthy life.
There is ongoing controversy over how pleural mesothelioma should be treated. But compared to more radical surgeries such as an EPP, the P/D is accepted by many specialists as the most appropriate and risk-aversive procedure for patients.
Dr. Cameron has been chief of thoracic surgery at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Medical Center since 1998 and is responsible for all aspects of thoracic surgical care and delivery.
The medical facility is the largest center in the VA care system and is affiliated with the UCLA School of Medicine.
Under Dr. Robert Cameron’s leadership, this VA facility rivals many of the nation’s top private hospitals for specialized mesothelioma treatment.
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Connect With Dr. Robert B. Cameron
Dr. Cameron is considered one of the best mesothelioma doctors in the world. His treatment has drastically altered and improved the lives of many of his patients through his debulking and controlling methods of treatment.
Through a variety of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and ongoing daily medication, Dr. Cameron has succeeded in managing the risks associated with pleural mesothelioma and helping patients to control the disease.
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