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Joel Baumgartner, M.D., didn’t move to San Diego in 2012 for the beautiful weather or the quality of life. He went for the opportunity – for both him and his patients – at the Moores Cancer Center.
Baumgartner, one of America’s most innovative young surgeons, joined the peritoneal mesothelioma effort at Moores, bringing his expertise in the use of hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). Moores is part of the University of California San Diego Health System and has the only major HIPEC Center on the West Coast. Patients are coming from throughout California and beyond.
Fast Fact: Dr. Baumgartner became a big believer in hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) during his fellowship in Pittsburgh.
HIPEC is a novel, steadily-growing treatment option that involves bathing the entire abdominal cavity with heated chemotherapy, designed to better target and kill any cancer cells left behind after all visible tumors are removed during surgery.
"There are still questions about the role of HIPEC in cancer therapy, but I’ve seen more than enough evidence to suggest significant improvement on outcomes after surgery," Baumgartner said. "I've seen some really good results.
Baumgartner came to San Diego following his fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Mesothelioma Specialty Care Center, one of the highest-volume HIPEC centers in the world. His experience from Pittsburgh has proved invaluable to Moores, making the move a perfect fit.
He joined veteran surgeon Andrew Lowry, M.D., who has used HIPEC therapy for treating peritoneal mesothelioma patients for several years.
(HIPEC) is 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. There are surgical risks involved - it;s a big operation - but we've had some real success stories here.
Peritoneal mesothelioma, the second-most common type of mesothelioma, is only a portion of Baumgartner's role at Moores. He is board certified in general surgery and has expertise in many abdominal cancers, particularly with the GI tract and melanoma.
He has performed many lymph node dissections and sentinel lymph node biopsies, along with local excisions of these tumors. His research interests include immunotherapy and melanoma.
Before working in Pittsburgh, Baumgartner attended medical school at Indiana University, worked an internship and did his residency at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
His work with HIPEC is what attracted Moores and why he was so receptive to the move. The HIPEC technique can avoid many of the toxicity issues often associated with systemic chemotherapy. It allows higher concentrations of the drug directly to the abdominal areas.
"We’ve got some patients now doing really well after the treatment. We have some that are more than five years out and their disease has never come back," he said. "There is hope out there now for these patients. We can offer that here. It’s a great place to be."
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