Dr. David Sugarbaker, Mesothelioma Expert, Dead at 65
One of the foremost experts in the study and treatment of mesothelioma has died.
Dr. David Sugarbaker, considered a pioneer in the treatment of asbestos-caused cancer, has passed away at age 65 after spending the last 30 years devoting himself to researching the particulars of malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Sugarbaker most recently served as director of the Lung Institute at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Prior to his joining the staff and faculty at Baylor in 2014, he was employed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where he and his colleagues built the most well-known and successful mesothelioma cancer treatment program in the United States and – likely – the world.
He was also the founded of the International Mesothelioma Program, which was dedicated to finding a cure for asbestos-caused cancers and which rallied for a ban on asbestos use in the United States.
Every year since 2002, Sugarbaker was named one of “America’s Top Doctors”, lauded for his pioneering lung surgeries and his development of thoracic surgery training centers.
He received two awards of distinction in 2007 and 2009 from the same organization that awards the top doc honors. In addition, Sugarbaker was granted the Pioneer Award from the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation in 2012, and in 2013 was awarded the Henry D. Chadwick Medal, the highest honor awarded by the Massachusetts Pulmonary Section of the American Lung Association of the Northeast’s Medical and Scientific Branch.
In the field of mesothelioma treatment, he is credited for introducing the first multi-modal treatment for the disease and was the first to strive for the goal of macroscopic complete resection of mesothelioma tumors.
He also worked to improve existing drugs currently used to treat mesothelioma and was dedicated to finding new treatments that would conquer this hard-to-beat form of cancer.
Patients traveled thousands of miles to be treated by Dr. Sugarbaker and his staff, as it was clear that they would have the best chance of survival if treated by him and/or his colleagues.
Many other thoracic surgeons around the country have trained under Sugarbaker, including Dr. Raja Flores of Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. He had this to say about his friend and mentor:
“He was a giant in the field. He not only took care of the mesothelioma patients, he trained a whole generation of doctors who will continue taking care of those patients. It’s a sad day for everyone. We will keep him in our prayers.”