Dr. James PingpankFocus: Peritoneal Mesothelioma
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
5115 Centre Ave.
Dr. James Pingpank specializes in localized treatments for peritoneal mesothelioma. He has treated many patients with this disease, and is considered an expert in the field by the medical community.
About Dr. Pingpank
Dr. Pingpank’s focus is on regional treatment strategies for mesothelioma and other advanced peritoneal cancers. He has vast experience treating mesothelioma patients and making presentations about mesothelioma to others in the medical community.
Medical Degree and Residencies
M.D., George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. Dr. Pingpank completed his residency at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, CT. He completed his fellowship at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
Associate professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
and surgical oncologist at the Hillman Cancer Center.
Dr. Pingpank is a member of several professional organizations, such as the American Society for Clinical Oncology, the American Association for Cancer Research and the Association for Academic Surgery.
Before coming to UPMC, Dr. Pingpank served as head of surgical metabolism at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Maryland.
Dr. Pingpank has also spoken about mesothelioma treatment at several symposiums and conferences, like the 2008 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation sponsors this annual event to benefit mesothelioma patients through education, empowerment, and networking.
In 2011, at the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, Dr. Pingpank discussed the difficulties of getting drug companies to invest in new treatments. He suggested the use of smaller trials as a cost-effective way to study mesothelioma and find evidence of treatment results, and therefore better understand this rare type of cancer.
Dr. Pingpank’s Accomplishments
- Leader in improving the cytoreduction with HIPEC procedure to better treat patients
- Put together a resource presentation on peritoneal mesothelioma for the Mesothelioma Foundation’s 2008 symposium
- Named to Castle Connolly’s Top Doctors™ (2012-2013)
- Received a Patients’ Choice Award (2012-2014)
- Compassionate Doctor Recognition (2012)
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Why Choose Dr. Pingpank?
- Compassionate and well-spoken surgical oncologist
- Recognized by patients for excellent treatment and care
- Over 20 years of experience
Dr. Pingpank's Research
Over the course of caring for mesothelioma patients and researching the disease, Dr. Pingpank determined that regional treatment is the most effective therapy for destroying peritoneal mesothelioma without damaging surrounding healthy tissue.
Regional therapy focuses cancer treatment on the locally affected area. In order to focus drug treatment on a specific area of the body, a doctor injects chemotherapy directly into that area. This technique allows for greater doses of medication, which improves the drug’s effectiveness while sparing the rest of the body from chemotherapy side effects.
Dr. Pingpank strongly supports treating peritoneal mesothelioma with cytoreduction surgery followed by heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), where hot chemotherapy drugs are administered directly into the abdomen.
Many of Dr. Pingpank’s studies focus on decreasing the rate of early recurrence in mesothelioma. He studies ways to identify patients at high risk for early recurrence. He also emphasizes increasing progression-free survival, which is the amount of time after treatment before the cancer spreads.
Mesothelioma pathways and survival rates
One of Dr. Pingpank’s articles on mesothelioma, which discussed activated pathways and their impact on mesothelioma patients’ survival rates, appeared in the January 2011 issue of Cancer, while others appeared in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Clinical Cancer Research and Annals of Surgical Oncology.
The significance of this work is that by identifying and learning more about the activated pathways scientists can better understand how mesothelioma starts and spreads. They can then come up with better, more targeted therapies to increase survival rates and improve patient outcomes. These therapies could target the signaling pathways essential for mesothelioma cancer cells to multiply and spread, inhibiting cancer growth development, especially when combined with other treatments.
In preclinical trials based on research like Dr. Pingpank’s, small molecule inhibitors have been shown to reduce tumor size. Other lab studies based on the study and understanding of activated pathways have been shown to inhibit molecules essential to tumor growth in mice, and to increase the sensitivity of mesothelioma cells to doxorubicin.
HIPEC Clinical Trial with Cisplatin
In 2003, Dr. Pingpank conducted a trial to study the survival rates of patients with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma who had undergone tumor resection and HIPEC with cisplatin. He found that the median progression-free survival time among the patients was 17 months, and the median overall survival time was 92 months. What this means is that half the study patients survived about 7.5 years or more after treatment. Typically, only 16 percent of patients with peritoneal mesothelioma survive five years after diagnosis.
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