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Joseph Friedberg, M.D.

Dr. Joseph Friedberg is a board certified general and thoracic surgeon and specializes in thoracic cancers, especially pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer, and lung-sparing surgeries. Dr. Friedberg is currently the Charles Reid Edwards Professor of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He is also chief of the school’s Division of Thoracic Surgery. Previously, Dr. Friedberg was the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center head of Thoracic Surgery where he helped direct the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Disease Program. His research interests include 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. After finishing his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, he stayed on for a year as a Greenebaum Research Fellow under Dr. Judah Folkman. Dr. Friedberg completed residency programs at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (in otolaryngology) and the Massachusetts General Hospital (in general surgery). Dr. Friedberg was also a Claude Welch Research Fellow for two years at Massachusetts General Hospital. He completed a 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 also served as co-director of the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Disease Program and was an associate professor in thoracic surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine. At Penn, Dr. Friedberg helped develop the use of photodynamic therapy with lung-sparing surgery.

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

Less Invasive Treatments for Pleural Mesothelioma

Dr. Friedberg’s contributed to current pleural mesothelioma treatment procedures by proving a less invasive surgical procedure was better for patients than the radical surgery, extrapleural pneumonectomy. Extrapleural pneumonectomy is an aggressive surgery that removes significant tissue from the chest cavity, including an entire lung. This procedure was long considered a mesothelioma patient’s best chance for survival.

In research trials, Dr. Friedberg showed that using a lung-sparing surgery followed by photodynamic therapy could result in higher survival rates. Photodynamic therapy uses a drug to make cancer cells sensitive to a particular wavelength of light. That light is then used to kill the cancer cells. The improved survival rates may be due to the novel light treatment. However, it is also possible that the gentler surgical procedure simply resulted in fewer complications.

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

Other Areas of Research

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

Dr. Friedberg has also research an inhaled sealant that could be used in patients with air leaks, sealing the pulmonary system. He is also working on surgical drains and managing non-small cell lung cancer. Dr. Friedberg is also developing minimally invasive control of blood vessels and is focusing on improving airway intubation methods. He has also worked on a team developing 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. He has also received a number of top doctor awards.

Dr. Friedberg has many years of experience as a surgeon and in cancer research. He is also responsible for developing better treatments for people living with terrible diseases. For mesothelioma, Dr. Friedberg believes it should be considered a chronic disease that 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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