Dr. David Sugarbaker is one of the world’s leading thoracic oncologists, specializing in the treatment of pulmonary malignancies, including the rare, pleural mesothelioma. With three decades of medical experience, Dr. David Sugarbaker is recognized as being a critical pioneer in mesothelioma treatment, having developed a curative surgery called the extrapleural pneumonectomy.
About Dr. Sugarbaker
Dr. David Sugarbaker is a thoracic surgical oncologist and Director of the Baylor Lung Institute at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, TX. In 2014, he helped open the comprehensive pulmonary treatment center at Baylor Clinic. Dr. Sugarbaker played an integral role in developing this critical diagnostic, research and treatment facility for serious lung diseases, including for pleural mesothelioma.
In addition to leading the Division of General Thoracic Surgery at Baylor Lung Institute, Dr. Sugarbaker is also the Olga Keith Weiss Chair Professor of Surgery at the Baylor College of Medicine. As a surgical professor, Dr. Sugarbaker has been tasked with the important role of training the next generation of thoracic surgeons, who are positioned to continue the critical work of Dr. Sugarkber and other surgeons in the field of mesothelioma.
As one of the most prominent figures in the mesothelioma community, Dr. Sugarbaker and his Mesothelioma Treatment Center at Baylor attract patients from all over the country. Known as “Dr. Mesothelioma”, Dr. Sugarbaker is highly respected by his patients and colleagues alike. Dr. Avi Lebenthal, another mesothelioma specialist who mentored under Dr. Sugarbaker, has referred to him as the “gold standard” of mesothelioma care.
Dr. Sugarbaker approaches patient care from a multimodal care philosophy, believing that no two cases of mesothelioma are the same and each patient requires a tailored treatment plan. He’s also an eminent promoter of the belief that a cure for mesothelioma is an eventual reality.
Dr. David Sugarbaker works out of the Baylor Clinic at the Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, TX.
Mesothelioma Treatment Center
6620 Main Street
Houston, Texas 77030
Born in Jefferson City, Missouri, Dr. Sugarbaker was virtually destined for the field of medicine, being the son of a surgical oncologist and a nurse. As a young adult, Dr. Sugarbaker assisted his father in the operating room. Being mentored by his father, Dr. Sugarbaker developed a keen interest in surgical oncology. His brother, Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, was also heavily influenced by his family’s background and is another highly respected mesothelioma specialist.
Dr. David Sugarbaker received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical School in 1979. He completed two surgical residencies. His first was at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, which he would eventually return to become the chief of. The second residency was at Toronto General Hospital in Canada, focusing on cardiothoracic surgery.
After completing his residencies, Dr. Sugarbaker became Chief of Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). His work at BWH is well-recognized in the medical community, as Dr. Sugarbaker developed the first non-cardiac thoracic surgery division in the country. Another major accomplishment at BWH was Dr. Sugarbaker’s initiative in developing the first comprehensive tissue and blood repository, which is now an integral program for collaborative oncological research.
While a BWH, Dr. Sugarbaker also began an instructing position as Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. And in 2002, with the goal of ultimately finding a cure for mesothelioma, Dr. Sugarbaker founded the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP), which remains a critical initiative today in collaborative mesothelioma research from around the world.
Having built up BWH’s mesothelioma program to a world-class facility, Dr. Sugarbaker left the cancer center in 2014 to take his leadership, skills, and knowledge to Texas, where he has been a critical player in developing the Baylor Lung Institute.
Dr. Sugarbaker’s Medical Specializations
Over the course of his career, Dr. Sugarbaker has developed certain mesothelioma specialties even contributing to establishing a mesothelioma staging system while at BWH, called the Brigham and Women’s Staging System. In this Brigham and Women’s mesothelioma staging criteria, stage 1 and 2 patients are deemed eligible for resectable pleural mesothelioma surgeries—a specialty that Dr. Sugarbaker has become well-known for.
Dr. Sugarbaker is a thoracic surgical oncologist specializing in treating stage 1 and 2 pleural mesothelioma patients. As the developer of the curative surgical procedure, extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), Dr. Sugarbaker is known for aggressively treating early-stage pleural mesothelioma patients and using a multimodal approach to eliminate cancer and send the disease into remission.
Pleural mesothelioma patients referred to Dr. Sugarbaker have what’s deemed as resectable mesothelioma, meaning it has a high likelihood of being removed surgically. During the EPP, Dr. Sugarbaker removes the affected lung, pleura (lung lining), pericardium (heart lining) and part of the diaphragm. Dr. Sugarbaker believes that by removing all visible signs of mesothelioma tumors and removing the lung, surrounding tissues and partial organs, the patient will have a greater likelihood of avoiding recurrence—when the mesothelioma comes back after removal.
Dr. Sugarbaker’s EPP has been taught to countless physicians. Over time, the procedure has become more and more refined, dramatically lowering risks of complications and increasing surgical success rates.
Personalized Multimodal Treatment
Dr. Sugarbaker continues to look for new and unconventional ways of treating pleural mesothelioma with a multimodal approach. The principle behind multimodal therapy, is that you can effectively send mesothelioma into remission where it can be managed, provided you combine several treatments together with each one playing their own critical role in the overall strategy.
In order to know which treatment combinations will be most successful, Dr. Sugarbaker and the team at the Mesothelioma Treatment Center personalize medical therapies to each patient based on test results from tumor samples. By looking at a patient’s specific genetic biomarkers found in their tissue and blood samples, Dr. Sugarbaker and his team can determine which treatments are likely to work best for the individual patient.
Based on the patient’s tissue samples, Dr. Sugarbaker and his team will then develop a surgery-based treatment plan that may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and new and novel treatments available through Baylor’s clinical trials program. The tumor testing also tells Dr. Sugarbaker the order in which patients should receive these treatments.
Working With Dr. Sugarbaker
Patients who have worked with Dr. Sugarbaker continue to attest not only to his surgical proficiency but to his compassion and commitment as a leader. Having given countless patients back their lives, many of Dr. Sugarbaker’s mesothelioma patients are today known as survivors. Some of them work within the medical community to raise awareness about the importance of aggressive, multimodal therapies like those provided by Dr. Sugarbaker and his team at Baylor Lung Institute.
Dr. Sugarbaker is truly the best of the best when it comes to mesothelioma treatment, and many patients being referred to him as a specialist can rest assured they are in the most capable surgical hands.