Finding the Right Peritoneal Mesothelioma Specialist for You

X-ray of lungs

If you’re looking for a peritoneal mesothelioma specialist, and are experiencing frustration by the limited amount of doctors who treat the cancer,
you’re not alone. Finding a peritoneal mesothelioma (PM) specialist is a challenging endeavor because only a handful of doctors in the U.S. have
experience with the rare cancer.

Several hundred PM cases are diagnosed in the U.S. every year, and the low incidence places a small demand on the medical industry for specialists. Breast,
prostate and skin cancer specialists are far more common because the incidence of these cancers is drastically higher than peritoneal mesothelioma.

Thankfully, PM specialists are located throughout the nation, and patients facing financial issues may be eligible for travel grants. Some of the PM specialists work remotely with doctors in
other states, making their expertise available to people who cannot travel long distances. And for people who need assistance, patient advocates and oncology social workers are available to help people
connect with a specialist.

Northeast Region

Paul Sugarbaker, M.D.
: Widely considered one of the world’s leading specialists on peritoneal mesothelioma, Dr. Paul Sugarbaker is the medical director of the Center for
Gastrointestinal Malignancies at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. Sugarbaker was an early pioneer of the treatment that became the
most effective therapy for peritoneal mesothelioma: Surgery combined with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), also known as heated

In addition to performing countless surgeries on peritoneal mesothelioma patients, Sugarbaker is a researcher and educator who has published hundreds of
pieces of medical literature and travels the globe educating other physicians. Few doctors have studied peritoneal mesothelioma as long as Sugarbaker has,
making him one of the most sought-after specialists on peritoneal mesothelioma.

James F. Pingpank, Jr., M.D.
: An active researcher and surgeon, Dr. James Pingpank is known for his compassionate bedside manner and his clinical research. He treats peritoneal
mesothelioma patients at the University of Pittsburg Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburg, Pa. Dr. Pingpank was part of the research team that reported an
overall survival of 92 months among 49 peritoneal mesothelioma patients treated with surgery and HIPEC.

In recent years, his research has investigated the factors that affect early cancer recurrence. One of Dr. Pingpank’s focuses in treatment is
extending progression-free survival — the amount of time after treatment before the cancer returns or spreads. Pingpank is working hard to understand
why some mesothelioma patients, who already have longer overall survival, also experience longer progression-free survival. Since 2003, he’s
published six reports on the treatment and survival of peritoneal mesothelioma patients, two of which were published earlier this year.

James Ohr, D.O.: With his medical roots in osteopathic medicine, Dr. James Ohr brings a unique educational and experiential medical background to the table when he works
with peritoneal mesothelioma patients.

Dr. Ohr is board-certified in internal medicine, medical oncology and hematology, and peritoneal and gastrointestinal cancers are among his clinical focus
at Hillman Cancer Center. Peritoneal mesothelioma patients who don’t qualify for surgery can work with Dr. Ohr to manage the cancer’s
progression with other therapies.

South/Southeast Region

W. Charles Conway, M.D.
: Surgical oncologist Charles Conway is working toward making the Ochsner Cancer Institute
in New Orleans a mesothelioma specialty center to serve the entire Gulf South Region. Dr. Conway handles all peritoneal cases, while thoracic surgeon Rodney Landreneau treats pleural mesothelioma. “There was an unmet need here
for mesothelioma expertise,” Conway told “It’s a cancer where you need to find a specialist.”

Dr. Conway has worked with a wide range of abdominal cancers, doing complex surgeries involving the pancreas, liver, bowel, and esophagus. In 2013, he became
the first surgeon to perform a total pancreaticoduodenectomy (Whipple Procedure) in Louisiana. With peritoneal patients, he has had great success with
cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC).

Edward Levine M.D.
: As chief of surgical oncology and director of the Wake Forest Comprehensive Cancer Center in North Carolina, Dr. Edward Levine has more comprehensive
oncology experience than most peritoneal mesothelioma specialists. He’s considered an international expert on the combined treatment of surgery and
heated chemotherapy for peritoneal cancers.

As one of the nation’s leading specialists on peritoneal mesothelioma, Dr. Levine works with doctors throughout the country to treat peritoneal
mesothelioma patients from coast to coast. Since it isn’t easy to find a peritoneal mesothelioma specialist in every state, Dr. Levine can offer his
expertise remotely through a referral relationship with doctors in 30 states.

Central Region

Richard Berri, M.D.
: Treating peritoneal mesothelioma with surgery and heated chemotherapy is among Dr. Richard Berri’s specialties at St. John Hospital and Medical
Center in Detroit, Mich. Dr. Berri is the director of surgical oncology at the Van Elslander Cancer Center, and is known for his leadership and dedication
to top-notch clinical care.

A believer in multidisciplinary medicine, Dr. Berri thinks every patient benefits when doctors from multiple specialties disciplines work together to
provide individualized treatment that is unique to the patient. Berri is known for his surgical skill and for his eagerness to collaborate with other
specialists to deliver optimal care to his patients.

Brian Loggie, M.D.
: As one of the early researchers who helped develop the HIPEC technique, Dr. Brian Loggie has treated peritoneal mesothelioma patients for two decades.
Currently, he serves as the director of the Cancer Biology Program and the chief of Division of Surgical Oncology at Creighton University School of
Medicine in Omaha, Neb.

A humanitarian at heart, Dr. Loggie volunteered his expertise in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake that left the area devastated and in deep need of
medical specialists. Loggie applies that same kindness to his peritoneal mesothelioma patients in Omaha.

West Region

Joel Baumgartner, M.D.
: Peritoneal mesothelioma patients on the West Coast can turn to the HIPEC program at Moores Cancer Center in San Diego, Calif., to work with HIPEC
specialist Dr. Joel Baumgartner. He trained for two years at one of the world’s highest volume HIPEC centers, the University of Pittsburgh School of
Medicine’s Mesothelioma Specialty Care Center, where he gained invaluable experience treating mesothelioma cases.

In 2012, Dr. Baumgartner moved to San Diego to contribute to the HIPEC team at Moores Cancer Center. He believes in the importance of working with doctors
who are familiar with peritoneal mesothelioma. Baumgartner says, “It’s a unique procedure with a very rare cancer. It’s really important
for a patient to find the right treatment center, and a surgeon who has experience with this type of malignancy.”

Ryan Holbrook, M.D.:
Based in Spokane, Wash., Dr. Ryan Holbrook is a surgical oncologist who specializes in abdominal cancers like peritoneal mesothelioma. He’s
performed the combined treatment of surgery and heated chemotherapy more than 150 times on people with mesothelioma and other cancers since 1996. His
location in East Washington is a boon to PM patients in the Northwest, because he’s the only HIPEC specialist in that area.

Peritoneal mesothelioma may be a rare cancer, but resources are available to patients to help them access the specialists and treatments they need to face
this disease.

Prior to innovative treatments like heated chemotherapy, the prognosis for PM patients was most often grim. Thanks to medical advancements and dedicated
research from these specialists, the survival rate for PM patients is improving. Historically, the median survival has fluctuated between six to 12 months,
but some patients who undergo surgery and heated chemotherapy are living beyond three and five years.

Would you consider heated chemotherapy if your oncologist recommended the treatment? Join the conversation with other mesothelioma patients on


Joining the team in February 2008 as a writer and editor, Michelle Whitmer has translated medical jargon into patient-friendly information at for more than eight years. Michelle is a registered yoga teacher, a member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine, and was quoted by The New York Times on the risks of asbestos exposure. If you have a story idea for Michelle, please email her at

Related Blog Posts

Discover Our Free Resources & Services

Learn What We Offer

Social Media

Top Authors

View our resources for patients and families

Get Help Today
Get Your Free Mesothelioma Guide