Dr. Wickii Vigneswaran

Director of Thoracic Surgery at Loyola University Health System

Dr. Wickii Vigneswaran leads the mesothelioma program at Loyola University Health System, which is located in a western suburb of Chicago. He’s one of the top surgeons for pleural mesothelioma.

Dr. Wickii Vigneswaran

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Pleural Mesothelioma

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Loyola University Health System

2160 S. 1st Ave., Maywood, IL 60153


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More About Mesothelioma Specialist Dr. Wickii Vigneswaran

Dr. Vigneswaran is the Director of Thoracic Surgery at Loyola University Health System, the medical affiliate of Loyola University. He’s an internationally recognized thoracic surgeon with a clinical focus on pleural mesothelioma. Loyola’s health system includes Loyola University Medical Center and Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center.

In addition to his medical practice, he is a professor of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at Loyola University School of Medicine.

Dr. Vigneswaran joined Loyola University Health System in 2016 to help build the hospital’s thoracic surgery program. This is after creating the thoracic surgery program at UChicago Medicine, which includes the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“I got into cardiothoracic surgery,” he said of his road to becoming a mesothelioma specialist. “You don’t often come across mesothelioma. … At the University of Chicago, we had a full team for a multidisciplinary approach.

“I produced the same environment at Loyola where I am now.”

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Medical Degrees and Residencies

    • Medical Degree from University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, India, 1977
    • Fellowship in Cardiothoracic Surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, 1993
    • Residency in Thoracic Surgery at Royal Infirmary of Glasgow, Scotland, 1981
    • Residency in Thoracic Surgery at Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Scotland, 1981
    • Residency in Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital
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Certifications and Memberships

    • Certified in cardiothoracic vascular surgery by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
    • Membership in the American College of Surgeons
    • Past president of the International College of Surgeons

Get Connected to Dr. Wickii Vigneswaran

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Dr. Vigneswaran leads one of the top cancer centers for mesothelioma in the country. Loyola University Health System has around 50 cases of pleural mesothelioma each year. Many are operable, relying on Dr. Vigneswaran’s expertise at Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center.

Why Choose Dr. Vigneswaran?

  • Performs radical, life‑saving surgery for mesothelioma
  • Neoadjuvant and adjuvant treatment with surgery
  • Leads a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals

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Choosing P/D Surgery Over EPP Surgery

Dr. Vigneswaran is skilled performing both surgeries for pleural mesothelioma: extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) surgery; and pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) surgery. The latter option is his preference for most of his cases.

“I do some extrapleural pneumonectomy but it’s very selective,” he said, “on patients who are younger and have early stage mesothelioma. The majority of my patients are in their 70s or 80s (age) and have other comorbidities.

“Most of my patients do better with pleurectomy and decortication,” he said. “The morbidity is much less compared to extrapleural pneumonectomy.”

EPP surgery and P/D surgery differ in whether the lung is taken out during surgery. EPP surgery removes the affected lung, along with the pleural lining where pleural mesothelioma forms.

P/D surgery leaves both lungs in while focusing on removing the pleural lining.

Pleural mesothelioma forms in this lining, which is between the lungs and chest wall. This thin lining is close enough to the lungs to put the organs at risk. However, not many lung cancer specialists have experience treating mesothelioma. This makes Dr. Vigneswaran and other specialists essential.

Extended P/D Surgery for Mesothelioma

Dr. Vigneswaran is one of many who prefers P/D surgery over EPP surgery for most malignant pleural mesothelioma cases. The extended form of P/D surgery is his recommendation. This surgery peels the pleural lining off the chest wall and surface of the lungs.

P/D surgery leaves both lungs intact but the extended form takes out the diaphragm and pericardium (lining around the heart).

“Most of the time you have to do the extended pleurectomy/decortication,” he said. “They don’t have early stage disease. They have significant disease. To remove the tumors, you have to do a radical operation.”

Dr. Vigneswaran and his team at Loyola University Health System see roughly 50‑60 cases a year. Most come to him wanting surgery. If they have epithelioid or biphasic histology then they’re likely a surgical candidate.

Why Dr. Vigneswaran Chooses EPP Surgery for Young Patients

For younger patients — age 60 and younger — with a stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma, Dr. Vigneswaran says EPP surgery is more beneficial than P/D surgery. Young patients are more likely to live comfortably with only one lung — without the breathing issues and other comorbidities of older patients — and the confined spread of tumors in stage 1 or stage 2 means a cure is possible.

Removing one of the lungs when tumors haven’t spread beyond that lung and the nearby pleural lining means there’s a good chance Dr. Vigneswaran can take out all the tumors.

“If I can aim for a cure, at least to my satisfaction, and they’re young, I’ll consider (extrapleural pneumonectomy),” Dr. Vigneswaran said. “… “I think there are very few patients who you can try for a cure. It’s such a small percentage.”

This thought process is inverted from the traditional way of using EPP and P/D for mesothelioma. Since P/D doesn’t remove the lung, most doctors feel it’s best for stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma since the tumors haven’t completely invaded the lung and it might be salvaged. EPP is considered best for later stages since tumors have spread more and doctors feel the lung cannot be spared.

“It’s just my philosophy,” Dr. Vigneswaran said. “I feel it has worked really well for us here at Loyola Health, but it’s just one way of viewing it. I just think our data on mortality backs up the approach.”

Front Lines of Therapeutic Evolution

As a highly regarded surgeon and researcher, Dr. Vigneswaran is one of the key contributors in the recent emergence of new therapies for malignant mesothelioma. He’s also a stakeholder in future progressions.

Surgery is a prime example of how far care for mesothelioma patients has come. EPP was the only surgical option, and then it was the highly preferred option to P/D surgery. During the past 20 or so years, the shift has favored P/D surgery.

Immunotherapy has been a huge benefit for mesothelioma. It was approved in 2020 for unresectable cases. It has become a primary option for people with sarcomatoid mesothelioma.

Looking to Targeted Therapy

Dr. Vigneswaran believes the next evolution is targeted therapy. Immune checkpoint inhibitors, like Opdivo and Yervoy, target specific proteins and biomarkers on the surface of tumor cells. More therapies like this could benefit a larger percentage of patients.

“It’s nothing concrete,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out what’s the target and what are the effects of targeting the disease.”

An example is T‑cell therapy. This involves enhancing T‑cells or generating new‑and‑improved T‑cells to attack cells expressing one specific protein found on mesothelioma tumors.

“That’s just the beginning. … Targeting the molecular markers is minimal at the moment,” Dr. Vigneswaran said. “That’s the way forward.”

How to Contact Dr. Vigneswaran at Loyola University Health System

Connecting with Dr. Vigneswaran and his team at Loyola University Health System is simple — if you have help from a patient advocate. They can easily get you directly to Dr. Vigneswaran’s office to schedule an in‑person or virtual consultation.

Along with Loyola University Medical Center and Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Dr. Vigneswaran sees patients at:

  • Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, Illinois
  • Elmhurst Hospital in Elmhurst, Illinois

There are three ways you can begin the process. First, you can contact a patient advocate for free by clicking that link and filling out your information. Second, you can fill out our free Doctor Match form at that link to get recommendations for the top specialists in your area.

Lastly, you can email our lead patient advocate directly. Karen Ritter, a registered nurse, is available at karen@mesotheliomaguide.com.

Sources & Author

  1. Thoracic & Cardiovascular Faculty. Loyola Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.loyolamedicine.org/gme/residencies/thoracic-cardiovascular-surgery/faculty. Accessed: 01/18/2024.
  2. Wickii T Vigneswaran, MD, MBA, FACS. The Thoracic Surgeon. Retrieved from: https://www.thethoracicsurgeon.com/. Accessed: 09/27/2023.
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.