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Remembering a Pioneer in Mesothelioma Care: David J. Sugarbaker, MD

Remembering a Pioneer in Mesothelioma Care: David J. Sugarbaker, MD

In late August, David J. Sugarbaker, MD, a pioneer of mesothelioma treatment and research, a gifted surgeon, and an outstanding mentor, passed away from cancer at age 65. This was an unexpected shock for the entire mesothelioma community. I’ve had the privilege of working alongside Dr. Sugarbaker for over 20 years at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) where he was the founding chief of the division of thoracic surgery, as well as the founder and director of the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP). Dr. Sugarbaker had a profound impact on the way we treat mesothelioma today, pushing the boundaries of surgery and multi-disciplinary care to prolong the life of his patients. He devoted his life to finding a cure for mesothelioma and had a tremendous influence on all of us here at the Brigham through training, collaboration, mentorship, and support.

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The Benefits of Comprehensive Support Services for Mesothelioma Families

Comprehensive Support Services for Mesothelioma Families |

Following the diagnosis of mesothelioma, patients often feel overwhelmed. They have many questions and concerns—for themselves and for their families. Patients worry how their loved ones will cope. The International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has a dedicated support team to provide comfort, compassion, and companionship during this difficult time for the patient as well as for the caregiver, most often the spouse. The IMP support staff includes a patient liaison coordinator, a chaplain, a dedicated social worker and two trained nurses who provide post-surgery care. Social worker Beth Flanzbaum, MSW, LICSW and chaplain John Kearns work alongside patient navigator Sheryl Ann Chicoine, Thornton House Coordinator Martha Williams, and nursing liaisons Lisa Hyde-Barrett, RN and Ellie Ericson, RN. One of the physician assistants is also assigned as the mesothelioma PA every week. Together, they create a support network for mesothelioma patients and their families before, during, and after their stay at the hospital.

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The Role of Gender in Mesothelioma

International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

New, gender-specific mutations were discovered for the first time in a mesothelioma research study at the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Studies have shown that women diagnosed with mesothelioma, typically have more favorable outcomes and a statistically better chance of survival than men with the same diagnosis. Identifying these different mutations and why women have an advantage are the first steps towards developing more effective treatments for everyone suffering from mesothelioma.

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Sequencing Breakthrough for Mesothelioma Patients

On February 29th, Nature Genetics published the results of a comprehensive mesothelioma gene-sequencing study conducted by our team of researchers at the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and scientists from Genentech. This seminal study provides new genetic insight into mesothelioma and offers a broader understanding of the disease’s mutation patterns. Through a comprehensive genomic analysis of over 200 mesothelioma tumors, our team of researchers identified several previously unknown genetic mutations and recurrent mutations within mesothelioma. The results prove the validity of sequencing mesothelioma tumors in the same way other forms of cancer are sequenced to determine targeted therapies. This study is the largest genetic analysis of mesothelioma thus far and could be a game-changer for identifying better targeted treatments.

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Unique Care Model Focuses on Patients and Their Families

A mesothelioma diagnosis usually turns the life of a patient and his or her family upside down, leaving them feeling frightened and overwhelmed. At the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, our comprehensive care model acknowledges these feelings and provides care and support to our patients and their families so that they can concentrate on treatment. Since 2002, we have thoughtfully crafted a unique model of care uniting teams of caregivers and support staff around patients and their families to provide the best personalized treatment possible.

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Resources for Mesothelioma Patients and Their Families

Clinical Trials Pave The Way For Successful Mesothelioma Treatments

Clinical trials are critical to finding and advancing treatments for mesothelioma patients. Since its inception in 2002, the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital has been conducting a series of clinical trials to evaluate various treatment options for patients before, during and after surgery. At any given time, our experts within the IMP are conducting multiple treatment clinical/research trials—with some having lasted over a decade.

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Discovering the Origins of Mesothelioma

Research is at the heart of the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston. By studying mesothelioma tumors, our team of physician-scientists has made incredible strides in the search for mutations that can lead to mesothelioma. Their findings support the current understanding that mesothelioma begins with exposure to an irritant—usually asbestos—that triggers a cascade of genetic changes resulting in the disease.

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