Dr. David Sugarbaker: Passionate Advocate for the Victims He Treated

Dr. David Sugarbaker, highly regarded as the top pleural mesothelioma surgeon in the world, has sadly died at the age of 65. He was internationally recognized for his work with mesothelioma patients and often nicknamed ‘Mr. Mesothelioma’, after dedicating more than 3 decades of his life to the cause.

About Dr. David Sugarbaker

A student at both Wheaton College and Cornell University Medical College, he graduated in 1979. Dr. Sugarbaker then completed residencies at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Toronto General Hospital.

In 1988, Dr. Sugarbaker became fascinated with a rare and complex cancer called mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos exposure. From then onwards, he focused his career on the treatment of pleural (lung) mesothelioma and helped countless patients over the past 30 years.

He founded the International Mesothelioma Program in 2002 in the hope of one day finding a cure for pleural mesothelioma. The program attracts patients from across the US who travel to take part in clinical trials and work directly with Dr. Sugarbaker.

Dr. Sugarbaker spent 25 years of his career at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, but his most recent role was as director of the Mesothelioma Treatment Centre and Lung Institute at Bayer College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

We can help patients even more now, and that’s exciting to me. — Dr. David Sugarbaker

Dr. Sugarbaker’s EPP Surgery

Sugarbaker is known for creating the revolutionary extrapleural pneumonectomy procedure (EPP) in the 1990s. With decades of research under his belt, Sugarbaker believed that this extreme procedure could save the lives of mesothelioma patients.

The EPP operation involves removing the diseased lung, pleural lining, nearby lymph nodes and parts of the diaphragm to resect the mesothelioma. He then trialed a trimodal approach which used a heated chemotherapy solution and post-operative radiation to destroy any remaining mesothelioma cells and decrease the chance of recurrence.

The operation was initially met with criticism. After a 1996 study concluded that 74% of his patients lived for at least 2 years post-surgery, it was deemed a success. EPP is now performed regularly on qualifying stage 1 and 2 mesothelioma patients.

Dr. Sugarbaker’s Commitment to Finding a Cure

Mesothelioma is not a common area of study for two reasons: For one, it’s a relatively rare disease that many surgeons will never come across in their careers, and two, it remains incurable.

Despite the odds, Dr. Sugarbaker felt compelled to dedicate his career to helping mesothelioma patients alongside his brother, Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, who is a leading peritoneal (abdomen) mesothelioma surgeon at Washington DC Cancer Institute at Washington Hospital Centre.

Our thoughts are with Dr. David Sugarbaker’s family, staff and patients during this challenging time. Dr. David Sugarbaker will be remembered for his passionate research into a previously neglected field of study, his pioneering EPP treatment and his profound care for every patient he treated. His work will serve as a lasting memory of his devotion to mesothelioma research.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Stephanie KiddWritten by:


Stephanie Kidd grew up in a family of civil servants, blue-collar workers, and medical caregivers. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from Stetson University, she began her career specializing in worker safety regulations and communications. Now, a proud member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Cancer Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

View 1 Sources
  1. Baylor College of Medicine, "David J Sugarbaker, M.D.". Retrieved from: https://www.bcm.edu/people/view/david-sugarbaker-m-d/8a46e330-b193-11e3-a42d-005056b104be. Accessed on August 30, 2018.