Dr. David Harpole Jr.

Vice Chief of Surgical Services at Duke University Health System

Dr. David Harpole Jr. is a mesothelioma specialist with focus on thoracic malignancies, such as pleural mesothelioma. He sees patients at Duke University’s hospital and cancer center.

Dr. David Harpole Jr.

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Pleural Mesothelioma

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Duke University Hospital

10 Bryan Searle Drive, Durham, NC 27710


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More About Mesothelioma Specialist Dr. David Harpole Jr.

Dr. Harpole is a thoracic surgeon and pleural mesothelioma specialist with Duke University Health System. This network includes the Duke Cancer Institute. Dr. Harpole is the main authority on mesothelioma treatment at the cancer center.

Dr. Harpole is Director of the Duke Lung Cancer Research Laboratory, which looks into how mesothelioma and lung cancer forms, grows, and spreads.

He’s also a professor at Duke University School of Medicine, one of the best medical schools in the country. Many of the brightest minds in cancer treatment received education or training at Duke University. His teaching titles include:

  • Professor of Surgery
  • Professor of Pathology
  • Resident Research Director

Aside from his work with Duke University Health System, Dr. Harpole is co-chair of the Thoracic Malignancy Steering Committee for the National Cancer Institute. This governing body oversees lung cancer and mesothelioma clinical trials in North America.

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Medical Degrees and Residencies

    • Medical Degree from University of Virginia School of Medicine, 1984
    • Residency in General Surgery at Duke University Medical Center, 1991
    • Fellowship in Thoracic Surgery at Duke University Medical Center, 1993
    • Fellowship in Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 1995
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Certifications and Memberships

    • Board-certified in General Surgery by the American Board of Surgery
    • Board-certified in Thoracic Surgery by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery

Get Connected to Dr. David Harpole Jr.

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Dr. David Harpole Jr. is one of the leaders in treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma. He’s the co-chair of a National Cancer Institute group dedicated to governing mesothelioma and lung cancer clinical trials. He also is a trained surgeon with one of the top cancer centers along the East Coast.

Why Choose Dr. Harpole Jr.?

  • Highly skilled surgeon for pleural mesothelioma
  • Learned from well-known mesothelioma specialist Dr. David Sugarbaker
  • Does research on how mesothelioma grows and spreads

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Protocol for Mesothelioma Surgery With Dr. Harpole

The best way to treat pleural mesothelioma is with surgery. Extrapleural pneumonectomy and pleurectomy/decortication are the two life-extending surgeries for pleural mesothelioma. Extrapleural pneumonectomy is a lung-removal operation, taking out the affected lung.

Pleurectomy/decortication spares the lungs and removes the pleural lining around the lungs. Surgeons also usually remove the pericardium (the lining around the heart) and at least part of the diaphragm.

Dr. Harpole has studied whether it’s best to use chemotherapy or radiation before or after surgery. There is an ongoing debate about this topic. Dr. Harpole used intensity-modulated radiation therapy with extrapleural pneumonectomy and garnered a median survival of around 20 months.

During his fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Harpole was trained by the late Dr. David Sugarbaker. He is one of many current specialists coming from Dr. Sugarbaker’s tutelage.

Bond With His Patients

Dr. Harpole entered oncology partly due to the close bond he forms with patients. Unlike other forms of medical practice, cancer treatment is a lengthy journey with emotional investments from the surgeon and medical oncologist. Dr. Harpole, being a thoracic surgeon, has taken this journey with many pleural mesothelioma patients.

“One of the things that attracted me to this is the long-term relationships,” Dr. Harpole said in a video published by Duke University Health System. “I tell all my patients that really we’re their doctor for life. I see patients back for many many years.”

There once was a snow storm in Durham, North Carolina, where the Duke Cancer Institute is located. The 26 inches of snow would have prevented many from going to their appointments. However, on Dr. Harpole’s clinic day, with more than 2 feet of snow as a barrier, more than 20 of his patients still showed up for their scheduled check-ins.

“It’s not that I’m such a fabulous doctor that they came to see me,” he says in the video. “It’s that they’re cancer patients. This is their annual visit, their follow-up, and they came. It’s important to them.”

Dr. Harpole continues, “I enjoy seeing my patients back 12, 13, 14 years later and hearing what they’ve been up to, what their family’s been up to. That’s a bond that you get in oncology that a lot of other fields don’t have.”

How to Connect With Dr. Harpole

Dr. Harpole mostly sees patients at the Duke Cancer Institute location in Durham, North Carolina. However, he also sees cases at the institute’s Raleigh location, plus the Duke Medical Center and Duke University hospital locations in both cities.

We can help you connect with Dr. Harpole and his surgical team at Duke University Health System. Fill out our free Doctor Match form with your name, email address and other information.

Another option is emailing our registered nurse and patient advocate,  Karen Ritter, with your medical questions. She can help you connect with Dr. Harpole or help you find other specialists in mesothelioma treatment. Email her at karen@mesotheliomaguide.com.

Sources & Author

Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is the senior 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.