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More About Mesothelioma Specialist Dr. Elliot Wakeam
Dr. Wakeam, who has practiced medicine for more than a decade, joined the staff at Michigan Medicine in November 2019 and remained there until 2022. He is one of the top thoracic surgeons in the United States and the primary surgeon for pleural mesothelioma at the institution.
“We didn’t really have anyone here who wanted to champion surgery for mesothelioma and mesothelioma trials until I got here,” he said.
In 2019, Dr. Wakeam completed the thoracic surgery and lung transplant fellowship programs at Toronto General Hospital and Princess Margaret Cancer Center. At these two locations, he became a mesothelioma expert under the tutelage of two thoracic surgeons. He re-joined the Toronto General Hospital staff in 2022.
Dr. Wakeam said the team in Toronto saw around 100 cases of pleural mesothelioma per year. He explicitly saw 40 or 50 each year.
Dr. Wakeam promotes the use of SMART for mesothelioma, which he learned in Toronto. SMART is the acronym for “surgery for mesothelioma after radiation therapy.” Dr. Wakeam believes this treatment approach is the key to improving survival times.
- Medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, 2010
- Masters degree from Harvard Medical School, Public Health, 2014
- Residency at the University of Toronto, General Surgery, 2017
- Certification in General Surgery from the American Board of Surgery
- Certification in General Surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada
- Membership in the American Association of Thoracic Surgery, American College of Surgeons, Canadian Association of Thoracic Surgery and International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation
Get Connected to Dr. Elliot Wakeam
Dr. Wakeam is a mesothelioma surgeon at Toronto General Hospital. He combines experience, innovation and compassion for his patients. Dr. Wakeam learned from some of the best surgeons in North America, and his goal is to extend people’s lives with radiation therapy and surgery.
Why Choose Dr. Wakeam?
- Use of SMART for pleural mesothelioma
- Emotional support provided to patients
- Open to surgery on biphasic and sarcomatoid patients
Bringing SMART for Mesothelioma to the U.S.
Dr. Wakeam is not the first mesothelioma specialist to advocate for SMART. For years, Dr. Perrot and others at Princess Margaret Cancer Center used SMART for mesothelioma.
The protocol for SMART includes intensity‑modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), followed by invasive surgery. The radiation therapy addresses the tumors on “the margins,” as Dr. Wakeam explained. Mesothelioma spreads by cells growing and duplicating, which leads to tumors separated from the bulk of the disease.
Dr. Wakeam said he and his team can use either extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) surgery or pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) surgery with the radiation therapy. EPP removes the affected lung while P/D spares the lung.
Dr. Wakeam is also open to using SMART on sarcomatoid and biphasic mesothelioma patients, in addition to the epithelioid cell classification.
Steps of SMART for Mesothelioma
Dr. Wakeam has a compact SMART protocol. It does not require much of the patients’ time. The four steps of SMART for mesothelioma are:
Five days of radiation therapy
Five days off from any treatment
Pleural mesothelioma surgery
Follow‑up radiation or chemotherapy if needed
Putting the Patient First
Not all mesothelioma patients are candidates for SMART. Treating this disease does not involve a “one‑size‑fits‑all” approach. Dr. Wakeam’s job involves providing emotional support during a trying time.
“There are multiple factors. Number one is resectability,” Dr. Wakeam said. “Are they going to benefit from surgery? Are there distant diseases? Is the disease growing into the heart or abdomen?”
There are many other questions involved in the SMART criteria. For patients who cannot receive this treatment approach, Dr. Wakeam focuses on “treatments that we know prolong life.” He also prioritizes pain‑relief therapies for patient comfort.
If you wish to speak with Dr. Wakeam, we can help you set up an appointment. Our patient advocates can pinpoint which doctor or cancer center is the best fit for you and your diagnosis. Get started today with our free Doctor Match program and you could be the next patient in Dr. Wakeam’s SMART treatment protocol.
Sources & Author
- Elliot Wakeam. Toronto General Hospital. Retrieved from: https://surgery.utoronto.ca/faculty/elliot-wakeam. Accessed: 11/10/2022.
- Radiation before surgery more than doubles mesothelioma survival: UHN study. University Health Network. Retrieved from: https://www.uhn.ca/corporate/News/PressReleases/Pages/radiation_before_-surgery_doubles_mesothelioma_survival.aspx. Accessed: 04/28/2020.
- Accelerated hemithoracic radiation followed by extrapleural pneumonectomy for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. Retrieved from: https://www.jtcvs.org/article/S0022-5223%2815%2901986-8/abstract. Accessed: 04/28/2020.
- Life Expectancy in Pleural and Peritoneal Mesothelioma. Lung Cancer International. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5292397/. Accessed: 04/28/2020.