Robert Cameron, M.D.
Dr. Cameron is a leading expert in the diagnosis and treatment of pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of this rare type of cancer. He currently holds several positions in Los Angeles, as a professor, a senior cardiothoracic surgeon and an advisor for the Pacific Mesothelioma Center at the Pacific Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
As a surgeon treating patients for more than two decades, Dr. Cameron is a strong proponent of using lung-sparing surgical procedures for patients with pleural mesothelioma. In his efforts to make more radical surgeries obsolete, he has innovated a lung-sparing procedure and multimodal approach to treating and managing mesothelioma as a chronic illness.
Education and Early Career
Dr. Cameron earned his undergraduate degree in both biology and medieval studies from Stanford University. He attended medical school at the University of Michigan and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, earning his medical degree from UCLA. He completed a residency program in general surgery at UCLA after completing his medical degree and then went to the National Cancer Institute to complete an oncology fellowship.
His final training was a cardiothoracic surgery residency at the Cornell-New York Hospital. Dr. Cameron’s first professional position was as assistant professor of surgery at the University of California San Francisco. He left UCSF after three years to join the faculty at UCLA. He is currently board certified in surgery and thoracic surgery.
Dr. Cameron currently holds several positions at The UCLA School of Medicine, including as Chief of Thoracic Surgery, Director of General Thoracic Surgery, and Surgical Director of the Thoracic Oncology Program. He is also a science advisor to the Pacific Mesothelioma Center, which is a division of the Pacific Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to medical research for new treatments, preventative techniques, and diagnostic tools.
The Pacific Mesothelioma Center is wholly dedicated to mesothelioma research and collaborates with the UCLA Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program and the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Dr. Cameron works as the chief of thoracic surgery at the latter. He works with patients in his current positions, including veterans who are the most common victims of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, but also leads and conducts research.
Advocating for Lung-Sparing Treatment
There has been a debate among mesothelioma professionals for some years over how best to treat patients. Some surgeons advocate a radical approach that gives a limited few patients a chance at actually beating the cancer. The procedure is called an extrapleural pneumonectomy and it involves removing a lot of tissue, including one entire lung. It is controversial because it leaves patients with a lower quality of life and can even be fatal.
Dr. Cameron strongly advocates for a different approach. He prefers to treat patients with less invasive surgery, to remove as much of the tumors as possible, and then to use other medical approaches, such as chemotherapy and radiation, to treat mesothelioma as a chronic illness. Dr. Cameron believes that evidence from research and clinical trials proves that his approach is just as effective and is less debilitating than treating patients with the radical, lung-removing surgery.
Dr. Cameron believes so strongly that doctors should stop performing the extrapleural pneumonectomy and that they should favor a lung-sparing approach that he started and leads an annual symposium about it. The International Symposium on Lung-Sparing Therapies for Malignant Mesothelioma brings together experts to discuss, teach, and learn about less invasive, novel treatments for mesothelioma that can be used instead of radical surgery.
A Multimodal Approach to Management
While he advocates for the complete cessation of use of the extrapleural pneumonectomy to treat mesothelioma, Dr. Cameron does believe that surgery has a place in a multimodal approach to managing the cancer like a chronic disease. The foundation of his approach, which he has spent years developing, is a procedure called pleurectomy/decortication, or P/D. It involves extensive surgery to remove as much of the tumors in the chest cavity as possible, but does not remove the lung, although it may be necessary to remove a piece or a lobe of the lung if the cancer has spread there.
The multimodal approach to treatment then becomes a process of trying to manage a patient’s cancer, through chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and other more experimental and innovative treatments. One reason that Dr. Cameron and others prefer this approach is that it is very difficult, and many consider impossible, to remove all cancer cells and tumors from a patient with mesothelioma.
One of Dr. Cameron’s biggest research interests over the last two decades of his career has been the use of P/D as a lung-sparing approach along with other treatments for mesothelioma. His other research interests and projects include immunotherapy treatments for mesothelioma, early diagnostic and screening tests, and using heated chemotherapy in the chest cavity for treating pleural mesothelioma.
Professional Organizations and Achievements
Dr. Cameron is a world-renowned expert in mesothelioma and a respected surgeon and physician. He belongs to several professional organizations including the Society of Surgical Oncology, the American College of Surgeons, the Western Thoracic Surgical Association, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the Pacific Coast Surgical Association, the American Association for Cancer Research, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, and the International College of Surgeons.
In addition to his professional affiliations, Dr. Cameron holds several prestigious positions. These include as Chairman of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has also served on Jonsson’s Cancer Quality Assurance Committee. He helped to found and was formerly the director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, the first such organization to be devoted entirely to the research of mesothelioma.
Dr. Cameron is a powerful voice in advocating for patients with mesothelioma. He has dedicated his medical career to this rare cancer that few people will ever be diagnosed with. Because of its rarity, mesothelioma has not been the subject of as much research as other diseases, but doctors like Dr. Cameron are working to change that. By pushing for lung-sparing treatments and developing his own multimodal approaches, he has improved and lengthened the lives of many patients living with mesothelioma.
Page edited by Dave Foster
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