Paying tribute to one of country’s leading thoracic surgeons and mesothelioma expert, Dr. David Sugarbaker

Sadly, world-renowned thoracic surgeon and pleural mesothelioma specialist David J. Sugarbaker, M.D.,  died Wednesday, August 29. He was 65. 

A true medical pioneer and leader in mesothelioma treatment for the past 30 years, Dr. Sugarbaker is most recognized for his groundbreaking work developing the extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) surgical method of mesothelioma treatment. In establishing the procedure, which targets and removes cancerous tissue from the lungs and chest, Dr. Sugarbaker helped extend and enhance the lives of countless victims of asbestos exposure. 

 “Dr. Sugarbaker’s dedication and positive outlook with mesothelioma patients was an inspiration to so many. We will truly miss his tireless advocacy, and innovative research and treatment for asbestos victims and their families, and for the benefit of the entire medical community throughout the world,” said Motley Rice co-founder Joe Rice.

During his time as the Director of Thoracic Surgery at Harvard Medical School's Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dr. Sugarbaker had the vision to create the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) in 2002 with hopes of conducting cutting-edge research that would one day lead to a cure for mesothelioma. Motley Rice is a founding member of the IMP Leadership Council, which helped found the IMP and supports state-of-the-art treatment, research and comprehensive services that continue today.

Watch Dr. Sugarbaker discuss one of his true passions, mesothelioma treatment options, with Joe Rice in 2011.

At the time of his death, Dr. Sugarbaker was the founder and Chief of the Division of General Thoracic Surgery at the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery, Director of the Baylor College of Medicine Lung Institute at the Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, and Director of the Baylor College of Medicine Mesothelioma Treatment Center.

Mesothelioma is a highly aggressive cancer of the cells around the lungs and lining of the chest wall that is caused by exposure to toxic asbestos fibers. The disease can take years, or even decades, to develop after the initial exposure. Roughly 3,000 people are diagnosed each year in the U.S.