Top-Ranking Mesothelioma Specialists
Finding the right doctor is a top priority for patients who are diagnosed with mesothelioma. Prompt and proper treatment is the best chance patients have for improving their prognoses and prolonging life.
Many experienced oncologists have never treated mesothelioma before. However, patients can find quality care from mesothelioma specialists at hospitals and cancer centers throughout the United States.
Why A Mesothelioma Doctor is Important
Mesothelioma is a complex disease. Early detection makes it possible for patients to receive more aggressive therapies and extend life expectancy.
The initial symptoms of mesothelioma are so subtle that it can be mistaken for less serious illnesses. However, a mesothelioma specialist is trained at recognizing telltale symptoms that may be missed by other doctors. Identifying the early signs of mesothelioma may enable patients to be diagnosed in the earlier ― and more treatable — stages of the disease.
A mesothelioma specialist knows the most effective treatment methods for the different forms of the disease. Specialists also stay current on the latest developments in cancer care, including clinical trials that may be beneficial for their patients.
In addition, doctors who routinely care for mesothelioma patients will be able to customize treatments for each individual and detect when changes need to be made to the treatment plan. Because mesothelioma spreads rapidly, it is important to have a physician who can make swift decisions to stop or delay the progression of the disease.
Mesothelioma specialists do not work alone. Most cancer centers adopt a team approach to mesothelioma treatment, where oncologists work alongside top surgeons and other experts to monitor patient care. A specialist can refer patients to other health care providers who have the knowledge and skills needed to tackle an uncommon cancer like mesothelioma.
However, specialists are not found in every state. Patients may need to travel in order to receive care from a mesothelioma doctor. For many, it’s a worthwhile investment. Mesothelioma experts help patients make complicated treatment decisions and start planning for the future. That can bring peace of mind to patients and families during such an uncertain time.
What a Mesothelioma Doctor Can Do
Most mesothelioma patients are referred to oncologists by their family doctor or general practitioner. A family doctor may be able to recognize irregularities in X-rays or other imaging tests, but will most likely not be able to diagnose mesothelioma.
- A mesothelioma doctor can provide comprehensive care for patients. They can:
- Diagnose mesothelioma
- Stage the cancer
- Identify mesothelioma cell type(s)
- Develop a treatment plan
- Coordinate all members of the mesothelioma team
- Seek or provide second opinions
- Inform patients of risks and benefits of treatment(s)
- Explain any possible side effects
- Provide information about clinical trials
- Give opinions about the effectiveness of any alternative therapies that a patient may be considering
Patients should always inform their doctors if they have a history of asbestos exposure. That could guide an oncologist to consider mesothelioma as a possible diagnosis instead of more common cancers.
Types of Oncologists
There are three main types of oncologists who may be involved in a mesothelioma patient’s care:
- Medical oncologists are usually the first contact person for cancer patients. They specialize in using chemotherapy, targeted therapy, hormonal therapy, immunotherapy and biological therapy to treat cancer. A medical oncologist is usually the doctor who coordinates care for a patient’s mesothelioma team.
- Surgical oncologists perform biopsies and surgeries to help diagnose and treat patients with mesothelioma. A surgical oncologist can also perform palliative care procedures to reduce pain and improve quality of life for patients in the late stages of mesothelioma.
- Radiation oncologists use high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells.
- A mesothelioma patient may be treated by all three types of oncologists at the same time. This type of treatment is called multimodal therapy.
Mesothelioma doctors tailor the types of treatments that patients receive based on the stage of the cancer and the patient’s overall health. Patients in the late stages of mesothelioma generally have fewer treatment options. However, a mesothelioma specialist may be able to direct patients to experimental therapies that could offer a brighter outlook.
How to Choose the Best Mesothelioma Doctor for You
Selecting the best mesothelioma doctor is a personal decision. Patients and family need to find a physician that they trust during such a turbulent time.
Think of the process of choosing a doctor as a job interview. Qualifications to consider should be:
- Has the doctor treated mesothelioma before? If so, what were the outcomes?
- Does the physician specialize in a certain form of mesothelioma?
- How many cases of mesothelioma does the doctor treat per year?
- Where was the doctor trained?
- What is the doctor’s specialty?
- Does the physician work at a cancer center with a mesothelioma program?
- Is the doctor conducting any mesothelioma research or clinical trials?
- Does the doctor explain the cancer staging process and what that means for a mesothelioma patient’s prognosis?
- What treatment options does the physician suggest?
- Does the doctor identify more than one possible treatment protocol?
- Did the patient learn what to expect as treatment progresses?
- Is the doctor open to second or third opinions?
- Can the doctor direct the patient to clinical trials that may be appropriate?
- Was the patient comfortable with the doctor’s bedside manner?
- Were all of the patient’s questions answered fully?
- Did the appointment feel rushed, or was the doctor thorough?
- Would the patient feel comfortable telling the doctor anything?
- Does the patient know anyone who has been treated by the physician before?
- Did the doctor take the patient’s own preferences into account?
- Would the patient have to travel for treatment? If so, is that practical?
- Is the doctor affordable?
- Can health insurance or government assistance help offset the cost of treatment?
It is important to start cancer treatment as soon as possible after a mesothelioma diagnosis. But patients should not rush into choosing an oncologist. Getting treatment from the right mesothelioma team can reassure patients that everyone is working together for the best possible outcome.
Top Mesothelioma Doctors
The following doctors have dedicated a solid portion of their careers to treating and researching malignant mesothelioma.
H. Richard Alexander Jr.
Dr. Alexander is the Chief Surgical Officer and Division Chief of Surgical Oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute in New Jersey. He began his surgical career as a Navy medical officer, going on to complete a surgical fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Alexander works in the Gastrointestinal/Hepatobiliary Program at Rutgers, a group that focuses on improving treatment options for patients with rare and recurrent cancers like peritoneal mesothelioma.
Alexander is the former deputy director in the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute. He has also authored over 250 peer-reviewed articles and lectured about cancer treatment in 17 countries.
Dr. Bartlett is a peritoneal mesothelioma specialist at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh. He is the Chief of Surgical Oncology and directs the David C. Koch Regional Perfusion Cancer Therapy Center.
Bartlett specializes in regional perfusion, the delivery of chemotherapy drugs directly to an organ or part of the body where metastatic cancer cannot be fully removed. His research interests include translational medicine, immunotherapy, therapeutic cancer vaccines and gene therapy to advance the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma and other cancers.
Dr. Bueno is Chief of Thoracic Surgery and Co-director of the Brigham and Women’s Lung Center in Boston.
In addition to performing surgeries, Bueno focuses his research on finding novel methods to diagnose mesothelioma. He was part of a team that found a gene-ratio technique could help not only verify a mesothelioma diagnosis, but could also differentiate what cell types were predominant in the affected tissues. Survival rates are dramatically affected by cell type, making this finding particularly significant for pleural mesothelioma patients.
Robert B. Cameron
Dr. Cameron is the founder of the mesothelioma program at Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles. He is a thoracic surgeon with interests in lung-sparing surgery that removes cancer while preserving the healthy portions of the lung.
Cameron is also experienced in using lasers, video-assisted surgery and robotic surgery to treat mesothelioma.
His research focuses primarily on mesothelioma and lung cancer. Current studies are exploring the role of intraoperative radiation on mesothelioma patients, as well photodynamic therapy, tumor vaccines and the pathogenesis of pleural mesothelioma.
W. Charles Conway II
Dr. Conway is a surgical oncologist at Ridley-Tree Cancer Center in Santa Barbara, Calif. He specializes in peritoneal mesothelioma and is trained in performing cytoreductive surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC).
Conway previously worked at the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center at Ochsner Hospital in New Orleans, where he advanced the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma alongside experts in pleural mesothelioma. In addition to mesothelioma, Conway treats patients with gastroesophageal, hepatic and pancreatic tumors.
Marcelo C. DaSilva
Dr. DaSilva is a member of the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. He is also an associate surgeon in the Division of Thoracic Oncology. In addition, DaSilva is chief of thoracic surgery at Care New England and a lecturer in surgery at Harvard Medical Center.
DaSilva pioneered a heated chemotherapy technique for treating patients with pleural mesothelioma. After removing as much visible cancer as possible during surgery, DaSilva applies heated chemotherapy drugs to the lungs in an attempt to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Dr. Dessureault is an award-winning surgical oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. She specializes in gastrointestinal cancers, including peritoneal mesothelioma.
Dessureault’s research interests include immunotherapy and tumor vaccines. She was involved in a landmark study that found that repeating HIPEC has the potential to extend survival times for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. That results of that research were published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology in 2014.
Dr. Flores specializes in the treatment of pleural mesothelioma at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. He focuses on minimally invasive surgical treatment of mesothelioma and other cancers.
In addition, Flores is involved in research to evaluate the effectiveness of multimodal treatments for mesothelioma patients. He also pioneered the minimally invasive VATS lobectomy for lung cancer and has led or participated in many clinical trials.
Dr. Fontaine is Section Head of the Mesothelioma Research Center at Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida. He is a thoracic surgeon with experience in minimally invasive surgeries, including robotic surgery. His research interests include immunotherapy and therapeutic vaccines, among others.
Along with mesothelioma, Fontaine also treats patients with esophageal cancer, lung cancer and rare cancers such as Pancoast tumor and thymoma. His studies have been published in the Journal of Surgical Oncology, Journal of Robotic Surgery and the Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology.
For the past 20 years, Dr. Harpole has led the Duke Lung Cancer Research Laboratory in Durham, NC. He is a thoracic surgeon with expertise in the treatment of mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Harpole is Co-chair of the Thoracic Malignancy Steering Committee, which oversees all of the mesothelioma, lung cancer and thymoma clinical trials in North America. He has a special interest in the genomics of mesothelioma and lung cancer, working to understand the gene abnormalities that can cause tumors to grow.
David M. Jablons
Dr. Jablons is a thoracic surgeon, researcher and professor at the University of California, San Francisco. He leads the thoracic oncology program at UCSF’s Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Jablons completed fellowships at medical centers known for their outstanding mesothelioma programs, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
His practice uses the most advanced techniques for treating mesothelioma. That includes minimally invasive surgical procedures, robotic surgeries and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).
Research efforts in Jablons’s Thoracic Oncology Lab focus on drug target discovery, commercialization of novel therapeutics and developing gene assays to identify important biomarkers for earlier detection of mesothelioma and other cancers.
Hedy Lee Kindler
Dr. Kindler is a renowned mesothelioma specialist at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center. She treats hundreds of patients with pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer every year.
Kindler designs and oversees clinical trials looking for novel agents to treat mesothelioma. That includes the development of chemotherapy drugs and angiogenesis inhibitors for mesothelioma patients. She is also active in research efforts involving peritoneal mesothelioma, the second-most common form of the disease.
Kindler is also a past recipient of the Selikoff Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
Abraham “Avi” Lebenthal
Dr. Lebenthal treats pleural mesothelioma patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the VA Boston Healthcare System. He is a thoracic surgeon and instructor of surgery at Harvard Medical School.
Lebenthal is skilled in numerous procedures used to treat patients with pleural mesothelioma, including pleurectomy with decortication (P/D), video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), laparoscopy and photodynamic therapy. He is affiliated with the International Mesothelioma Program and leads the mesothelioma team at the Boston VA.
Dr. Loggie is Chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Neb. Loggie is among the early developers of the procedure that uses cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy (CRS/HIPEC) to treat peritoneal mesothelioma.
Loggie pioneered the use of CRS/HIPEC for patients with peritoneal cancers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. In addition to peritoneal mesothelioma, Loggie focuses on the treatment of other rare and recurrent abdominal cancers.
In addition to his surgical duties, Loggie is director of the Cancer Biology Program at Creighton. His research efforts include clinical trials for mesothelioma, estrogen receptor regulation and Cox 2 mucinous cancers.
Charles Ray Mulligan
Dr. Mulligan is Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Delaware. His expertise includes the use of minimally invasive surgical methods and video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) to treat patients with mesothelioma and early-stage lung cancer.
An Army veteran, Mulligan served as chief of thoracic surgery and chief of general and thoracic surgery at 28th Combat Support Hospital during two tours in Iraq. One-third of all mesothelioma patients are military veterans. Many were exposed to asbestos during their military careers.
In 2012, Mulligan was recruited to build the Thoracic Oncology Program at Centra Health and Pearson Cancer Center in Lynchburg, Va. He returned to Christiana Care in 2014.
Dr. Pass specializes in mesothelioma at Perlmutter Cancer Center in New York. He works with a team of physicians to customize treatment for patients.
Pass uses minimally invasive techniques and robotic surgery to treat mesothelioma, with the goal of minimizing pain and shortening recovery times for patients. He has designed and overseen numerous clinical studies to identify novel treatments and better ways to detect thoracic cancers through blood biomarkers.
Pass is also a recipient of the Wagner Medal from the International Mesothelioma Interest Group and the Pioneer Award from the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.
J.F. Pingpank Jr.
Dr. Pingpank is a surgical oncologist and associate professor of surgery at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh. He treats patients with peritoneal mesothelioma and a variety of gastrointestinal cancers.
Pingpank advocates for regional treatments for advanced malignancies. Regional treatment applies therapy to only the areas of the body affected by cancer. This strategy preserves healthy tissues that could be inadvertently damaged through other treatment methods.
Pingpank also performs cytoreduction with HIPEC for peritoneal mesothelioma patients. His research has been published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, Journal of Immunotherapy for Cancer and the Journal of Surgical Oncology.
Paul H. Sugarbaker
Dr. Sugarbaker is Chief of the Peritoneal Surface Malignancy Program and Director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Malignancies at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.
Sugarbaker pioneered the use of cytoreductive surgery with heated chemotherapy (HIPEC) to treat peritoneal mesothelioma. This method — which inserts warm chemotherapy directly into the abdominal area following surgery ― has since been dubbed the Sugarbaker procedure.
Dr. Tsao is director of the mesothelioma program at Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She specializes in head and neck cancers, as well as mesothelioma.
Tsao is an active researcher and works with a multidisciplinary team of specialists to coordinate care for mesothelioma patients. She has published numerous articles exploring the effectiveness of various treatments to improve patient outcomes, with a special interest in immunotherapy and novel treatment methods for targeting mesothelioma.
Dr. Vallieres is the surgical director of the Lung Cancer Program at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. He is board-certified in general and thoracic surgery, with special interests in mesothelioma, lung cancer, thoracic oncology and hyperhidrosis.
Vallieres utilizes a variety of treatment protocols for his patients, including the trimodal approach that incorporates chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy to tackle mesothelioma and other cancers.
He also uses advanced imaging technologies in the operating room, including a touchless system that allows him to navigate through a patient’s scans using only hand gestures.
Dr. Rusch is a thoracic surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She was one of the first women in the United States to be board certified in thoracic surgery.
Rusch uses video-assisted thoracoscopy (VATS) and robotic surgery in the treatment of pleural mesothelioma. She is an advocate of minimally invasive procedures to reduce pain and limit the length of hospital stays for cancer patients.
Rusch also uses advanced ultrasound techniques in the staging of certain cancers. Both endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) and esophageal ultrasound (EUS) allow for cancer staging without making an incision.
Rusch is published in numerous scholarly journals and has written chapters on mesothelioma, pleural disease, lung cancer, esophageal cancer and mediastinal diseases for medical textbooks. She is also Chair of the Mesothelioma Subcommittee of the International Association of Lung Cancer’s Staging Committee.
Need Help After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis? Download Our Free Guide
It can be difficult to know where to turn after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. The team at Mesothelioma Help has created a free guide to mesothelioma to support you during your cancer battle.
Download our free guide to receive:
- Legal advice from one of the country’s top-rated mesothelioma attorneys
- Medical recommendations from mesothelioma specialists
- News about recent developments in cancer treatment
- Guidance on finding mesothelioma doctors and hospitals near you
- Advice on how to connect with other courageous mesothelioma patients and caregivers
This guide is a comprehensive resource for patients no matter where they are on their cancer journey.