Dr. Taylor Ripley has taken over the Mesothelioma Treatment Center at the Baylor College of Medicine. The world-renowned cancer program was developed by Dr. David Sugarbaker, nicknamed “Mr. Mesothelioma”, who personally selected Dr. Ripley as his successor before passing away on August 29, 2018.
Dr. Sugarbaker was recognized across the globe for his extensive knowledge about mesothelioma. He developed the multimodal approach to treating mesothelioma, which combines chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery, and revolutionized mesothelioma treatment with the controversial-yet-effective extrapleural pneumonectomy procedure (EPP).
Dr. Sugarbaker also paved the way for multimodal treatment plans, in which specialists from numerous fields work together to beat mesothelioma, and it was in this spirit that the Mesothelioma Treatment Center in Houston, TX was created.
About Dr. Ripley
Dr. Ripley is an extraordinarily talented surgeon and researcher, and it will be fascinating to see how he steps out of Dr. Sugarbaker’s shadow and innovates on mesothelioma treatment protocols for Baylor’s Mesothelioma Treatment Center.
Prior to his position at Baylor, Dr. Ripley started groundbreaking cancer research at the National Cancer Institute that profiles biomarkers in esophageal cancers. This research helps oncologists predict the likelihood a tumor will die from surgery after receiving radiochemotherapy, which is a standard esophageal cancer treatment, by profiling proteins in mitochondria pathways.
In 2016, Dr. Ripley received the NCI Director’s Innovation Award for this cancer profiling research, which he will continue to pursue and refine at Baylor.
Leading Mesothelioma Cell Researcher
If Dr. Ripley finds a way to effectively apply his cancer profiling research to mesothelioma, the results could be revolutionary. He is already participating in similar research for mesothelioma, studying the evolution of mesothelial cells when they interact with asbestos. This research is tracking biomarkers and tumor suppressor pathways in an attempt to reconstruct exactly how mesothelioma cells evolve. Once the medical community understands the complex biochemical reactions that mutate cells, it can find ways to stop them.
This biochemical research wouldn’t be the first time Dr. Ripley takes an existing medical innovation, modifies it, and applies it in new ways. In the Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology’s December 2017 edition, Dr. Ripley co-authors an article that encourages oncologists to begin applying heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC)—originally a mesothelioma treatment—to patients with gastric cancer.
Dr. Ripley’s ability to take existing medical breakthroughs and apply the science in new ways could prove invaluable to mesothelioma research, which still desperately seeks a reliable cure. Baylor is fortunate to have Dr. Ripley on their team because this is exactly the type of person that will find a way to beat mesothelioma once and for all.
In the meantime, Baylor’s patients are fortunate to have such a talented surgeon on their team.
Dr. Ripley brings extensive mesothelioma experience to the table, having worked with many of the world’s best mesothelioma surgeons during a former thoracic surgery fellowship at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He has publicly stated that mesothelioma is now his primary clinical focus, which holds great promise for the future of mesothelioma treatment.
The Future of Baylor Lung Institute
Dr. Ripley is a proponent of minimally invasive surgery, often using video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) to conduct diagnostic tests for mesothelioma patients, and employing minimally invasive techniques whenever possible during his procedures and surgeries. Minimally invasive surgery is preferable for patients because the recovery times are significantly quicker, but this specialized surgery requires additional training and expertise that not all surgeons have.
Dr. Ripley’s willingness to learn and execute the latest, innovative surgical techniques bodes well for the future of Baylor.
Beyond running the Mesothelioma Treatment Center, Dr. Ripley’s new position includes many additional titles and responsibilities, typical of those in a Director position. Dr. Ripley is joining Baylor College of Medicine as an associate professor of surgery, and will also be part of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center team at the college and Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. These positions are important, as they allow Dr. Ripley to personally work with future mesothelioma surgeons and current mesothelioma patients.