In addition to the Mesothelioma and Pleural Diseases Program, Cengel also is director of the Photodynamic Therapy Program, a key component in the care of patients with pleural mesothelioma at the Abramson Cancer Center.
The Mesothelioma Program brings together specialists in medical, surgical and radiation oncology. The team meets weekly to discuss each case, making sure every patient receives the best care possible.
“We are one of the only centers in the world with this kind of expertise,” Cengel said. “We are treating patients with the most modern therapies, moving from bench to the bedside to bring hope to a disease like mesothelioma, where there has not been much hope and promise in the past.”
The program includes pulmonologists with extensive experience in diagnosing various lung diseases and pathologists who specialize in evaluating lung tissue.
It also conducts clinical trials exploring the latest immunotherapy advancements.
As a radiation oncologist, Cengel has expertise treating mesothelioma, lung cancer, thymus cancer, neuroendocrine tumors and thymic carcinoma. He is skilled in the use of proton and photodynamic therapy.
He serves as an associate professor of radiation oncology at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
He also runs the Cengel Laboratory, which focuses on therapeutic advancements and finding the optimal balance between killing cancer cells and minimizing damage to normal cells and tissue.
Leading Research on Photodynamic Therapy
Cengel is the lead investigator in a clinical trial investigating the use of photodynamic therapy with lung-sparing pleurectomy/decortication surgery for mesothelioma patients.
Photodynamic therapy involves sensitizing cancer cells to light with medication and then killing the cancer with low-level light beams. Penn Medicine was one of the first programs to use it for thoracic diseases.
“In addition to unique treatment options for front-line therapy, we also have unique resources to use if the tumors come back,” Cengel said. “This includes the most modern radiotherapy, as well our proton center.”
The Proton Therapy Center is the largest and most advanced facility of its kind in the world, and the only one fully integrated with a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.
Cengel earned his degree at the University of Illinois School of Medicine. He did his first residency at the University of Illinois and his second at the University of Pennsylvania.
He also is a cancer survivor, which has given him a real passion for what he does.
“My treatment philosophy is to walk by the patient’s side for every step of this difficult journey,” he said. “I draw from personal experience. I know what it’s like to be sitting on the other side.”