Thoracic surgeon Dr. Joseph Friedberg spent almost a decade building a well-respected mesothelioma program at the Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
He is building an even better one now in Baltimore.
The University of Maryland recently named Friedberg director of its new Mesothelioma and Thoracic Oncology Treatment and Research Center, expecting to create a flagship that is second to none.
“We intend to make this the most comprehensive program in the country for mesothelioma,” Friedberg told Asbestos.com. “It might be presumptuous to just say ‘we’re the best,’ although I hope that’s the case. I like to think we will be. The resources here are spectacular. It’s a step above and beyond what I had before [at Abramson].”
Although the Maryland School of Medicine has treated mesothelioma patients successfully for years, the newly rebranded multidisciplinary center linking research, treatment and education creates a more comprehensive approach to benefit present and future patients.
The center offers a mesothelioma focus in many fields involved in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, including:
Patients will have access to specialists from various disciplines relevant to their care. The specialists will meet weekly to discuss each patient’s diagnosis and immediately implement individualized treatment plans using the latest techniques.
“One of the reasons I came here was to establish this center. All the pieces were here to make it work. And the spirit of collaboration is better than anything I’ve ever seen,” Friedberg said. “It’s exciting to be part of this. Mesothelioma is a disease that is in desperate need of better treatments. And we hope to provide those.”
Friedberg left the Abramson Cancer Center and joined the Maryland School of Medicine early in 2015. He is skilled thoracic surgeon who specializes in pleural mesothelioma. As a research scientist, he focuses on developing innovative treatments.
He was a pioneer in the development of the lung-sparing pleurectomy/decortication surgery for pleural mesothelioma. He has long advocated for early, regular screening for those who worked with asbestos, the leading cause of mesothelioma. He has spoken to patients for years about the importance of finding an experienced specialist for treatment.
Friedberg will partner with Dr. H. Richard Alexander, a long-time authority on peritoneal mesothelioma, giving the new center a proven specialist in each major type of the disease. Most cancer centers do not have both.
Pleural mesothelioma, which is more common, typically begins in the thin lining surrounding the lungs and then spreads throughout the chest cavity. Peritoneal mesothelioma involves the abdominal cavity and the lining that surrounds it.
Other key staff members will include radiation oncologist Dr. Minesh Mehta, medical director of the Maryland Proton Treatment Center; and Dr. Martin Edelman, director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Thoracic Oncology department, whose research has focused on developmental therapeutics.
Friedberg believes the center’s integrative medicine department, which unites conventional medicine with complementary therapies to treat the whole person, is just one example of what will set the center apart from other mesothelioma programs in the country.
“We really have a comprehensive approach. There is no one good treatment for this disease. You need a team approach with different disciplines and everyone committed to make it work,” he said. “We have that here.”
The University of Maryland School of Medicine has been a national leader in innovative care for lung and esophageal cancers. It also is one of the country’s top biomedical research institutions.
The new center will work closely with the UM Greenebaum Cancer Center, which has provided specialized cancer care since 1965.
“It would be hard to be more comprehensive than we are, to have more specialists to look at each case, in the same room at the same time, and come up with an integrative plan for a mesothelioma patient,” Friedberg said. “There is hope for this disease. Regardless of the stage a patient is in, we can help them.”