Dr. David Sugarbaker, a pioneer in the treatment of mesothelioma for over 30 years, suddenly passed away on August 29, 2018. He was a world-renowned thoracic surgeon and was a man who many of his colleagues and patients considered to be the “gold standard” in treating mesothelioma cancer.
Dr. Sugarbaker was the Director of Thoracic Surgery at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. He started his work at Baylor College in 2014 after 26 years of service at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, the most well-known and respected mesothelioma treatment center in the country.
His goal was to build another treatment program that would match that of the Brigham and Women’s, and over the last four years managed to make that dream he had for the Baylor College program a reality.
The Sugarbaker Generation of Surgeons
Colleagues of Dr. Sugarbaker, as well as those he mentored, remember him as the man responsible for educating a new generation of surgeons who specialize in mesothelioma treatment.
Jacques Fontaine, a thoracic surgeon trained by Dr. Sugarbaker, said in response to the news of his sudden passing:
“His legacy will endure through the accomplishments of all the prominent thoracic surgeons he has trained. He is the mentor of mentors. His vision, focus, and dedication to advancing the treatment of mesothelioma have influenced an entire generation of thoracic surgeons.”
Through his trailblazing research that led to the development of the Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP) procedure, Dr. Sugarbaker helped thousands of patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma beat the odds. Many of his patients lived well past their life expectancy. Some for five or even 10 years after they received treatment.
His emphasis on educating younger surgeons entering the field helped to solidify his legacy and ensured his efforts would not die with him.
The entire mesothelioma community is shocked and saddened by this sudden loss. Dr. Abraham “Avi” Lebenthal, another thoracic surgeon who had the privilege to be trained by Dr. Sugarbaker, said:
“In this field [of mesothelioma], he is the gold standard. I don’t think you’ll get any argument over that. He is Dr. Mesothelioma.”
Everyone mourns the loss of Dr. Sugarbaker and are thankful to have been influenced, even indirectly, by his unmatched dedication in treating this rare disease and the care he had for his patients.
He is survived by his wife Linda and their six children.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dr. David Sugarbaker
What is the Sugarbaker procedure?The Sugarbaker procedure, or Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), is a surgical treatment for pleural mesothelioma. During an EPP surgery, the affected lung, the lining of the chest wall, part of the diaphragm, and the lining around the heart are removed. The surgery is called 'extrapleural' because it involves removing tissues outside the lung. The procedure is considered a radical approach and is only recommended for select patients with early stage mesothelioma.
Can Stage 1 mesothelioma be cured?There is currently no cure for mesothelioma, including Stage 1. However, early detection and aggressive treatment can improve prognosis and increase survival rates. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation. It is important to consult with a mesothelioma specialist to discuss personalized treatment options.
What is the life expectancy after HIPEC surgery?The life expectancy after HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy) surgery varies depending on many factors such as the stage of mesothelioma, the overall health of the patient, and the success of the surgery. Some patients have reported survival rates of up to five years after the HIPEC surgery, while others may not survive beyond a few months. It is important to discuss your specific case with your doctor to get a better understanding of your prognosis.
Who is a good candidate for HIPEC?HIPEC (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy) is a treatment option for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, a type of cancer that affects the lining of the abdomen. A good candidate for HIPEC is a patient with a localized form of peritoneal mesothelioma who is otherwise healthy enough to undergo surgery and chemotherapy. The decision to undergo HIPEC should be made on a case-by-case basis with a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals.
What type of mesh for Sugarbaker?Sugarbaker surgery, or Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), is a complex surgical procedure that involves the removal of the affected lung and cancerous tissue in the chest cavity. The lining of the heart and part of the diaphragm is also removed during surgery - mesh is often used to reconstruct the lining around the heart and the diaphragm.
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