Paul Sugarbaker was a top surgeon for peritoneal mesothelioma patients. He developed the Sugarbaker Procedure, a combination of cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy. He stopped accepting new mesothelioma patients for surgery at the end of 2020. He still performs limited follow-ups with existing patients.

About Dr. Sugarbaker

Dr. Paul Sugarbaker was the director of the Center for Surgical Oncology at the Washington Cancer Institute, part of the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. where he was considered the leading surgeon treating patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. He no longer accepts new patients but still helps his existing ones with limited follow-ups. He will continue to be active in research.

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    Medical Degree and Residency

    MD Cornell University Medical College, NY 1967. Dr. Sugarbaker completed residency at Peter Bent Brigham and Women’s Hospital Surgery from 1967-1974.

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    Professional Title

    Head of Sugarbaker Oncology Associates

As the son of a doctor, Dr. Sugarbaker was groomed to become one himself. In fact, he is the older brother of the leading surgeon for pleural mesothelioma patients, David Sugarbaker, M.D. Together, these brothers have pushed the limits of treating mesothelioma.

In the 1980s, Dr. Paul Sugarbaker fought to develop his signature treatment method, known now as the Sugarbaker Procedure. This surgical treatment faced controversy over the radical method of applying heated chemotherapy drugs directly to the abdomen after surgically removing any visible tumors.

Although the procedure has its critics, this treatment has greatly extended the lives of countless patients.

Dr. Paul Sugarbaker’s Accomplishments

  • Developed the Sugarbaker Procedure, the leading treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma patients
  • Founding member, International Society of Regional Cancer Therapy
  • Founded the nonprofit Foundation for Applied Research in Gastrointestinal Oncology
  • Award-winning surgeon for his service and research

Dr. Sugarbaker's Treatment Plan

The Sugarbaker Procedure is named after Dr. Sugarbaker in honor of his experience in and influence on the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma. When Dr. Sugarbaker began developing his method of treatment, nearly all types of abdominal cancer were considered terminal. Peritoneal mesothelioma was especially harmful because of how hard it is to catch in the early stages.

Studies have shown that the average survival time for patients who have had the Sugarbaker Procedure is extended by 3 years. In some cases, patients experienced marked survival times of up to 7 years and even remission.

The Sugarbaker Procedure is a complicated procedure involving the removal of visible tumors in the abdomen, the lining of the abdomen and affected organs, and then bathing the abdominal cavity in heated chemotherapy drugs. The addition of the chemotherapy is what makes the procedure controversial, but is also what has made the procedure so successful.

Because this treatment is applicable to more common abdominal procedures, Dr. Sugarbaker had a lot of experience performing the surgery.

The Steps of the Sugarbaker Procedure

  • Mesothelioma Cytoreduction Treatment
    Once the patient is put under, an incision is made in the center of the abdomen to provide access to the cancerous region of the abdomen. The lining of the abdomen is removed and the surgeon checks every organ and surface for tumors that can be removed.

    This process is tedious and takes up to 10 hours to complete. Cytoreduction is a complicated procedure because it involves examining all the organs in the abdomen for tumors and excising them.

  • Mesothelioma Chemotherapy Treatment
    HIPEC (Heated Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy)
    After the cancerous material is removed from the abdomen, the next step in the Sugarbaker Procedure is applying heated chemotherapy drugs to the abdomen. This is the part of the surgery that has come under fire from some people in the medical community in the past, but this step has helped extend the lives of countless patients.

    This part of the procedure takes about 90 minutes and is aimed at trying to eliminate the microscopic mesothelioma cells that cannot be removed surgically. Dr. Sugarbaker’s logic in using HIPEC is common sense—kill the mesothelioma that cannot be removed by surgery alone.

Patient Experience

Many peritoneal mesothelioma patients credit Dr. Sugarbaker with the success of their treatment.

Alexis Kidd

Photograph of a Alexis Kidd

Survivor Alexis Kidd is a testament to the Sugarbaker Procedure. She had a life-saving cytoreduction with HIPEC overseen by Dr. Sugarbaker back in 2009. She is currently enjoying life with her husband, Christian.

”Even though I have never met Dr. Sugarbaker in person, and may never have the opportunity to do so, he has had a profound and lasting impact on my life. I have benefited not only from his research and refinement of the HIPEC procedure, but also his willingness to share his findings with other doctors.

His willingness to work with my oncologist and surgeons half the country away gave me a fighting chance against my unusual progression of mesothelioma. Without him and his work, there would have been little hope for me. Now there is all of the hope in the world.”

Read more inspiring stories of how survivors like Alexis Kidd have beat the odds thanks to specialists like Dr. Sugarbaker in our free Mesothelioma Survivors Guide.