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Joseph Friedberg, M.D.

Dr. Joseph Friedberg is currently the Charles Reid Edwards Professor of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He is also the chief of the school’s Division of Thoracic Surgery. He was previously the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center head of Thoracic Surgery and helped to direct the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Disease Program.

Dr. Friedberg is a board certified general and thoracic surgeon and specializes in thoracic cancers, especially pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer, and lung-sparing surgeries. His research interests include developing new treatments for mesothelioma and lung cancer, including tumor vaccines.


Dr. Friedberg completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania College of Engineering and Applied Science. He got his medical degree from Harvard medical School and stayed on for a year as a Greenebaum Research Fellow under Dr. Judah Folkman. He completed residency programs at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (in otolaryngology) and the Massachusetts General Hospital (in general surgery). Dr. Friedberg was then a Claude Welch Research Fellow for two years at Massachusetts General Hospital. He completed is cardiothoracic surgical fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Career and Current Position

After completing his residencies and fellowships in surgery and thoracic surgery, Dr. Friedberg joined the University of Pennsylvania Health System as the Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. He was also the co-director there of the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Disease Program and an associate professor in thoracic surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine. It was at Penn that Dr. Friedberg helped develop the use of photodynamic therapy with lung-sparing surgery.

From Penn, Dr. Friedberg moved on to the University of Maryland in 2014. He is now the thoracic surgery chief at the Marlene and Steward Greenebaum Cancer Center, which is in Baltimore. He is also the University of Maryland’s chief of thoracic surgery and Charles Reid Edwards Professor of Surgery. In these positions Dr. Friedberg has joined a multidisciplinary team that helps treat patients with mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other thoracic diseases and he continues his many research projects.

Less Invasive Treatments for Pleural Mesothelioma

One of Dr. Friedberg’s most important contributions to the treatment of pleural mesothelioma was proving that a less invasive surgical procedure could be better for patients than the radical surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy. This aggressive surgery involves removing a lot of tissue from the chest cavity, including an entire lung, and has for a long time been considered a mesothelioma patient’s best chance for survival.

Dr. Friedberg showed in his research trials that using a lung-sparing surgery, followed by photodynamic therapy could actually result in higher survival rates. Photodynamic therapy involves using a drug to make cancer cells sensitive to a particular wavelength of light and then using that light to kill the cancer cells. The improved survival rates may be due to the novel light treatment, but also to the gentler surgical procedure that may result in fewer complications.

The results showed that for 37 late-stage patients, the average life expectancy was tripled. The results also demonstrated that the use of photodynamic therapy instead of more conventional radiation therapy may have triggered the immune systems of the patients to help fight the cancer. At the time that Dr. Friedberg performed these procedures at the University of Pennsylvania, it was one of only two locations where patients could receive this innovative treatment.

Other Areas of Research

In addition to pioneering the use of lung-sparing surgery and photodynamic therapy, Dr. Friedberg has numerous other areas of research interest. He is working on developing a type of cancer treatment that is completely novel, called photobrachytherapy. This would use a combination of substances and techniques to treat cancer, including radioisotopes, nanovesicles, and immunotherapy.

His other areas of research include the use of an inhaled sealant that would be used in patients with air leaks, sealing the pulmonary system. He is also working on surgical drains, managing non-small cell lung cancer, using photodynamic therapy for lung cancer, minimally invasive control of blood vessels, and improving airway intubation methods. He has also worked on a team that is trying to develop a lung cancer vaccine.

Organizations and Honors

Dr. Friedberg is a member of a number of prestigious professional organizations including the American Association of Thoracic Surgeons, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the American College of Chest Physicians. For his work with an for patients, he has also been honored with a number of top doctor awards.

Dr. Friedberg has many years of experience as a surgeon, working with patients, in research, and most importantly in developing better treatments for people living with terrible diseases. For mesothelioma, he works by the philosophy of management. He does not believe that it should be considered an incurable disease, rather one that is chronic and can be managed. This approach, along with his dedication to patient comfort and outcomes, makes Dr. Friedberg a top mesothelioma doctor.

Page edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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