After receiving a cancer diagnosis, choosing a doctor and treatment center is the most important step in extending life expectancy. For patients with rare cancers like mesothelioma, choosing a doctor who specializes in the disease is vital to getting the best treatment and personalizing it to an individual’s case.
The top seven cancer treatment centers, according to U.S. News & World Report, are listed below and each have renowned mesothelioma programs. They offer conventional treatments like surgery and radiation, while also conducting clinical trials to explore new treatments and diagnostic techniques to improve a mesothelioma prognosis.
1. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center – Houston, Texas
MD Anderson has been one of the top two cancer centers on the U.S. News and World’s Best Hospitals for Cancer report since the survey began in 1990. Additionally, it’s one of the original three Comprehensive Cancer Centers, bestowed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) through the National Cancer Act of 1971. The NCI uses this recognition to endorse hospitals as a leader in cancer treatment and research. Furthermore, this cancer center is a distinguished mesothelioma treatment facility and home to 30 disease experts, including Dr. Anne Tsao, an authority in the field.
Mesothelioma patients at the center have access to a number of clinical trials, including a current one involving targeted agents that help the body fight mesothelioma. Different from other treatments, targeted agents focus on a cancer’s specific genetic profile to help the body fight the disease, offering new hope to mesothelioma patients, who typically have a poor prognosis. In addition to leading the way in targeted agents, MD Anderson pioneered intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which precisely delivers radiation therapy to a tumor while minimizing the effect on the healthy surrounding tissue.
2. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – New York City, New York
As the oldest and largest private cancer center in the world, it’s no surprise that Memorial Sloan Kettering ranks just behind MD Anderson. Cancer patients at the hospital have a team of specialists from across departments working together to determine the right course of treatment for their diagnosis, whether it be surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. The cancer center also stays on the cutting edge of treatment options and works with the latest vaccines, immunotherapy drugs, and radiation techniques. This cancer hospital puts patients’ well-being first and provides them with a variety of services:
- Survivorship Program: Helps cancer survivors navigate post-cancer life
- Follow-up Program: Helps survivors of childhood and young-adult cancers with medical and psychological concerns as a result of cancer treatment
- Cancer Alliance: Connects medical providers with local care providers to keep them informed of new research and treatments while opening a dialogue between physicians
For mesothelioma patients, Memorial Sloan Kettering has experts on staff who meet often to discuss treatment options for their patients. With a large database of patients to look at, mesothelioma doctors at the center have access to years of data to assist them in determining the most effective treatment for their patient.
3. Mayo Clinic – Rochester, Minnesota
In addition to being the third best cancer treatment center, the Mayo Clinic is ranked number one on the U.S. News Best Hospitals Honor Roll. With state-of-the-art facilities and top cancer experts, patients at the cancer center have access to breakthrough treatment options. Additionally, the clinic offers patients support through a variety of means, including an online forum. Mayo Clinic Connect offers patients a place to connect with others who are fighting cancer or caring for someone with cancer. This online community offers comfort and support to the nearly 1.3 million patients who seek treatment from the hospital each year.
Mesothelioma treatment at the clinic involves collaboration between departments, including pulmonology, surgery, and pathology to provide patients with individualized care. By caring for hundreds of mesothelioma patients each year, doctors at the Mayo Clinic are well versed in handling the disease. Treatment at the center is collaborative and providers take a patient’s goals and needs into account when creating a treatment plan. They work with patients to provide the right options to help achieve the desired outcome, whether that be extending one’s life or improving their quality of life.
4. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute & Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DFBWCC) – Boston, Massachusetts
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute & Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center is more than a preeminent cancer center, it’s also home to the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP), making it a leader in mesothelioma treatment and research. With the largest mesothelioma program in the world, it’s no surprise DFBWCC treats over 300 patients annually and is also home to Dr. Raphael Bueno, a top mesothelioma expert. Their team takes a multidisciplinary approach to patient care using the most advanced diagnostic tools and utilizing the latest therapies and clinical trials.
One notable piece of research that has come from the IMP is the four-gene ratio test for mesothelioma. This molecular test helps doctors determine a patient’s prognosis when it comes to receiving standard treatment. Combining the results of this test with other patient specific information allows doctors to predict which patients will respond favorably to surgery and which should consider more aggressive experimental therapies. When treating patients, DFBWCC strives to use minimally invasive surgery by incorporating robotic-assisted technology and video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS).
Video-assisted Thoracic Surgery
- Precursor to robotic-assisted technology
- A camera and surgical tools are inserted through small incisions in the chest wall
- Camera offers the surgeon a better view of the field to perform the operation
- Used to biopsy tumors as well as perform certain types of surgery
- Surgeon uses remote-controlled tools and a 3D camera to perform the operation
- Tools fit through a small incision, minimizing blood loss
- Tools mimic human movement to perform actions in the patient’s body
- Helps surgeon determine if the patient will benefit from further surgery
5. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance & University of Washington Medical Center – Seattle, Washington
In addition to being one of the top five cancer treatment centers in the United States, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance & University of Washington Medical Center (SCCA) is also recognized as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. Keeping in line with their goals of comprehensive treatment, SCCA has patient support as a top priority and the center provides a multitude of support groups for cancer patients to join. One of these groups is the survivorship clinic, which helps patients transition from active treatment to day-to-day life as a cancer survivor. Other support services from the hospital include housing, emotional and spiritual support, and legal and financial assistance.
Mesothelioma patients at SCCA work with a team of specialists who create a targeted treatment plan. In addition to having disease experts treating them, patients are cared for in a multidisciplinary cancer center, which has been proven to produce better outcomes. Mesothelioma patients also have palliative care professionals, social workers, physical therapists, and dietitians available to them through the cancer center to improve their quality of life.
6. Johns Hopkins Hospital – Baltimore, Maryland
Johns Hopkins is an advanced cancer research center which provides expert treatment to patients. This comprehensive cancer center puts patient needs first and works to ensure all patients have the support and services they need during their battle with cancer. A personalized patient guide is given to all new patients which offers information about their disease and treatment, symptom management, support programs, and other resources available to them. The healthcare team at the cancer center is larger than a patient’s doctors and nurses; it brings together people across disciplines.
Mesothelioma is one cancer specialty at Johns Hopkins and is handled by the Lung and Esophageal Cancer Program where mesothelioma patients account for five percent of those treated. Current research at the hospital includes the trial of a new chemical compound to target tumor cells and another is searching for biological markers that could lead to the earlier detection of lung cancer and mesothelioma.
7. Cleveland Clinic – Cleveland, Ohio
The Cleveland Clinic finishes out the top seven cancer centers and also claims the second spot on the U.S. News Best Hospitals Honor Roll. Besides treating patients, educating and supporting them throughout their journey is important to the clinic. To accomplish these goals, the center has services for patient education as well as support and survivorship programs. The Patient Resource Center offers brochures, internet access, and information on support groups and patient events at the hospital. Additionally, the Cleveland Clinic is a member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (Case CCC), a partnership organization which provides a forum and academic network for cancer researchers. Case CCC aims to unite cancer researchers and improve the prognosis for millions of Americans living with cancer. Case CCC advocates for increased funding for cancer research and offers patients from member institutions access to services, research information, and support.
Mesothelioma patients are treated by the lung cancer program, a part of the Respiratory Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. Patients in the program have a multidisciplinary team composed of oncologists, pulmonologists, and thoracic surgeons who work together to offer patients a comprehensive plan to fight cancer. The clinic prides itself on providing customized care for patients by finding the most effective treatment options to provide the best quality of life.