Michigan Medicine

1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109

Michigan Medicine, affiliated with the University of Michigan, is one of the best cancer centers in the United States. The hospital features an innovative approach to treating malignant pleural mesothelioma.

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Pleural Mesothelioma

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Michigan Medicine

1500 E. Medical Center Drive

Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Dr. Elliot Wakeam

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More About Mesothelioma Treatment at Michigan Medicine

With a high-profile addition to its staff, Michigan Medicine launched its pleural mesothelioma program in 2019. The facility added Dr. Elliot Wakeam, a thoracic surgeon trained at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto.

Dr. Wakeam brings more than a decade of experience working with mesothelioma patients. He brought with him an innovative treatment protocol, which utilizes radiation in tandem with surgery.

Michigan Medicine’s launch of a mesothelioma program is a huge boost for people living in the upper-midwest region. Most mesothelioma cancer centers are along the eastern and western coastlines. Now people living in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana have a new option for treatment without traveling thousands of miles.

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Experienced Mesothelioma Specialists

    • Dr. Elliot Wakeam, thoracic surgeon
    • Dr. Gregory Kalemkerian, medical oncologist
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    • University of Michigan, formerly called the University of Michigan Health System
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Treatment Specialties

    • SMART for pleural mesothelioma
    • Radiation therapy
    • Extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery

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Michigan Medicine is one of the latest hospitals to add a mesothelioma treatment program. The staff includes an esteemed thoracic surgeon who has developed a protocol for treating pleural mesothelioma.

Why Choose Michigan Medicine?

  • Innovative approach to treating mesothelioma
  • Led by a surgeon trained at Toronto’s top cancer center
  • Located in a U.S. region with few options for treatment


SMART for Mesothelioma

SMART for mesothelioma is Michigan Medicine’s groundbreaking protocol. SMART is an acronym for “surgery for mesothelioma after radiation therapy.” SMART utilizes “neoadjuvant” radiation, which is radiotherapy occurring before surgery.

SMART is for pleural mesothelioma. It was conceptualized at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. Dr. Wakeam worked at this cancer hospital before joining Michigan Medicine. He brought his belief in SMART and created his own protocol.

“We use radiation to sterilize the margins (of the disease),” Dr. Wakeam said. “There are several advantages to SMART.”

The Michigan Medicine staff is open to SMART for patients with biphasic and sarcomatoid mesothelioma cell types. This allows more people to receive life-saving treatment.

What Is Part of SMART at Michigan Medicine?

Patients undergo five days of radiation therapy. Once the treatment step concludes, there’s a five-day pause to allow patients to recover. They then undergo surgery, either extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) or pleurectomy with decortication (P/D).

“We primarily use EPP but we also do P/D as well. We can do both,” Dr. Wakeam said. “I would tailor it to the patient. If you’re a young and fit patient, EPP gives you better disease clearance.

“Problem with surgery is you’ll get a local recurrence. That’s where the radiation (beforehand) is key.”

Following surgery, patients may receive further radiation or chemotherapy if needed. Dr. Wakeam and his staff are also looking into using mesothelioma immunotherapy with radiation.

“It’s worth thinking about the future directions of where we want to take (SMART) at Michigan,” he said.

Survival Rates of SMART for Mesothelioma

At the Princess Margaret Cancer Center, the SMART approach led to extraordinary results. For patients with the epithelioid cell type:

  • The median survival was 51 months
  • Around 72% survived for at least three years
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Hospital Ranking

    • Ranked 11th in the U.S. News & World Report 2021-2022 Hospitals Honor Roll
    • Ranked 36th in cancer treatment
    • Ranked 31st in gastrointestinal cancer surgery
    • Ranked 15th in lung cancer surgery
    • Ranked 1st in state of Michigan

Experienced Staff

If you go to Michigan Medicine, there are many others involved with your medical care. They include a:

  • Medical oncologist
  • Radiation oncologist
  • Registered nurse and clinic coordinator, equivalent to a nurse navigator

They all play a role in creating a patient-first culture at Michigan Medicine. There is no set-in-stone approach to treating mesothelioma.

“Thoracic surgery is a palliative care specialty, and I fully believe that,” Dr. Wakeam said. “Quality of life is top of mind with everything we do. … We have a really important role to play when it comes to making people feel as good as they can for as long as they can.”

The patient advocates at Mesothelioma Guide have connections with the Michigan Medicine staff. Our team can help you set up an appointment to meet with these esteemed medical professionals. Contact one of our patient advocates at 1-888-385-2024 or fill out this form to have a team member contact you.

Sources & Author

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About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.