Dr. Paul Sugarbaker

Lead Surgical Oncologist and Specialist at Sugarbaker Oncology Associates

Paul Sugarbaker was a top surgeon for peritoneal mesothelioma. He developed the Sugarbaker Procedure, also called the HIPEC surgery. He stopped accepting new mesothelioma patients for surgery at the end of 2020. He still performs limited follow‑ups with existing patients.

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Peritoneal Mesothelioma (retired)

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Sugarbaker Oncology Associates

3629 Fulton St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20007

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More About Mesothelioma Specialist Dr. Paul Sugarbaker

Dr. Paul Sugarbaker is the head of Sugarbaker Oncology Associates. He was the director of the Center for Surgical Oncology at the Washington Cancer Institute. This facility is part of the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., where he was 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.

As the son of a doctor, Dr. Sugarbaker was groomed to become one himself. He was brother to the late David Sugarbaker, a pleural mesothelioma surgeon. This brother duo 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. It combines cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy. The heated chemotherapy is known by the acronym HIPEC. It delivers heated chemotherapy medication into the abdomen.

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Medical Degrees and Residencies

    • Medical Degree from Cornell University Medical College in New York, 1967
    • Residency in general surgery at Peter Bent Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 1967‑1974
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Certifications and Memberships

    • Founding member of the International Society of Regional Cancer Therapy
    • Founded the nonprofit Foundation for Applied Research in Gastrointestinal Oncology

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. This cancer is especially harmful because of how hard it is to catch in the early stages.

Many high‑volume facilities have a median survival of 5‑6 years after complete cytoreductive surgery. Recurrence also reduces thanks to the Sugarbaker Procedure, largely due to implementing HIPEC for microscopic tumors.

The Steps of the Sugarbaker Procedure

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Cytoreduction — 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. Doctors remove the omentum plus some organs, such as the spleen. Doctors may also remove part or all of the peritoneal lining, a procedure called a peritonectomy.

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HIPEC (Heated Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy) — After the cancerous material is removed from the abdomen, the next step is sending heated chemotherapy drugs into the abdomen. This part of the procedure takes 60‑90 minutes and aims to eliminate microscopic mesothelioma cells left behind. The purpose is to prevent recurrence.

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.

Adding NIPEC to Treatment

Since its inception, the Sugarbaker Procedure has evolved with adjuvant steps. Dr. Sugarbaker is a proponent of NIPEC, a type of mesothelioma chemotherapy. Normothermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy is a dwell chemotherapy. It occurs weeks or months after the surgery and initial HIPEC. The drugs sit in the abdomen for up to 24 hours.

Dr. Sugarbaker reported a 75% five‑year survival rate for select patients undergoing cytoreduction, HIPEC and NIPEC.

“Dwell chemotherapy is very important long‑term,” he said in an interview with Mesothelioma Guide. “I’ve used HIPEC several thousand times. I’m aware HIPEC has some huge shortcomings. Number one, it’s only used once. It’s just a single treatment. That’s not the way drugs work. … It’s unlikely that a single dose of cancer chemotherapy will give you a durable response.”

Patient Experience

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

Peritoneal mesothelioma 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.

“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.”

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.