Dr. Joel Baumgartner

Surgical Oncologist at UC San Diego Health

Dr. Joel Baumgartner is one of the top surgical oncologists for peritoneal malignancies. He’s the primary peritoneal mesothelioma surgeon at Moores Cancer Center. This institution is part of the University of California San Diego Health System.

Dr. Joel Baumgartner

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Peritoneal Mesothelioma

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Moores Cancer Center at University of California San Diego Health

3855 Health Sciences Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037


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More About Mesothelioma Specialist Dr. Joel Baumgartner

Dr. Baumgartner is one of many peritoneal mesothelioma specialists emerging from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), where he completed a surgical oncology fellowship.

“It has changed ever since I was there,” he said of the fellowship. “It’s basically a large peritoneal surface malignancy program.

“A lot of the training in the fellowship involves taking care of these patients.”

His training included a focus on HIPEC and cytoreductive surgery. HIPEC stands for heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy. Surgical oncologists use this intraoperative therapy for many abdominal cancers.

“I got a lot of experience with that (at UPMC),” Dr. Baumgartner said of HIPEC surgery, noting the program offers “more exposure to this surgery than any fellowship program in the country.”

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Medical Degrees and Residencies

    • Medical Degree from Indiana University in Bloomington, 2003
    • Residency in General Surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, 2003‑2010
    • Fellowship in General Surgical Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 2010‑2012
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Certifications and Memberships

    • Certified by the American Board of Surgery

Get Connected to Dr. Joel Baumgartner

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Dr. Baumgartner sees patients from across the country. He is part of a national HIPEC program and sees 10‑15 people with peritoneal mesothelioma a year. He joined the UC San Diego Health System in 2013 as part of Moores Cancer Center.

Why Choose Dr. Baumgartner?

  • Vast experience with HIPEC for peritoneal mesothelioma
  • Support for immunotherapy in many cases
  • Open to virtual consultations and appointments

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Interest Comes From Helping Patients

Dr. Baumgartner sees 10-15 peritoneal mesothelioma patients a year at UC San Diego Health’s Moores Cancer Center. He said at least five are operable with cytoreduction and HIPEC, a promising sign for patient selection. Some doctors and institutions operate on a lower percentage of cases.

“I see almost all of the mesothelioma patients,” he said. “It was not a disease I was ever exposed to at all in medical school or residency training. I did see quite a few at (UPMC) when I was there.”

Dr. Baumgartner has a noble reason for clinical interest in peritoneal mesothelioma. He believes surgery and HIPEC does as much good for these patients as any cancer.

“What interested me then and still does today is — even though it’s an aggressive disease and not all are surgical candidates — for the ones who are surgical candidates, I think we have as big of an impact for this disease as any we do cytoreduction and HIPEC for,” he said. “Cytoreduction/HIPEC seems to give pretty good outcomes compared to what other options there are.

“We like to do those big operations and put patients through big recoveries if they will be meaningful.”

Survival with just systemic chemotherapy is usually 1‑2 years. Cytoreduction and HIPEC has a five‑year survival rate of at least 50%.

“We see a wide range of outcomes, even after surgery,” Dr. Baumgartner said. “In all cases, the goal is to do a complete cytoreduction and HIPEC. Sometimes we include chemotherapy before and after surgery. Sometimes not.

“There is a lot of variety. Sadly there are patients who recur sometimes a few months after surgery. Some patients are cured of it.”

Treatment Protocol at Moores Cancer Center

Cytoreductive surgery involves removal of the omentum and any overrun organs, such as the spleen. However, if there are just a few noticeable tumors, Dr. Baumgartner tries to ablate or gradually remove the nodules.

“Sometimes there is just one or two dots of disease on the spleen and we can ablate those,” he said. “I’ve never been a believer in taking out normal tissue.”

Even the peritoneum, where the initial mesothelioma tumor forms, can be spared. It’s an important lining for the abdominal organs.

“This is a common misconception,” Dr. Baumgartner said. “The peritoneum is not just the abdominal wall and diaphragm. It also covers the abdominal organs.”

Interest in Minimally Invasive Approaches

Dr. Baumgartner is interested in the benefits of minimally invasive HIPEC. This involves laparoscopic surgery through small incisions, called port sites.

“We only consider that approach for patients with a small volume of disease,” he said.

Patient selection is complicated for HIPEC surgery. There’s a focus on the subtype of the disease, volume of cancer and more. Imaging tests are integral to staging the disease and determining surgical candidacy.

“Mesothelioma is so hard to image to get a good sense of the disease, even with a great MRI,” he said.

If you would like to schedule a meeting with Dr. Baumgartner, contact our staff. You can send us your information through our free Doctor Match form or contact a patient advocate directly. It is important to do this as soon as possible to give yourself the best chance of being eligible for surgery.

Sources & Author

  1. Joel M. Baumgartner, MD. UC San Diego Health. Retrieved from: https://providers.ucsd.edu/details/12183/surgery-cancer. Accessed: 08/31/2021.
  2. Joel Baumgartner. UC San Diego. Retrieved from: https://profiles.ucsd.edu/joel.baumgartner. Accessed: 08/31/2021.
Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a 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.