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Washington Cancer Institute at Washington Hospital Center, Washington D.C.

The Washington Cancer Institute is located within the Washington Hospital Center in the nation’s capital. It is the largest cancer treatment facility in the city and a top cancer center in the region. Since it opened in 1992 the Cancer Institute has earned a reputation for putting patients first and in leading with accurate cancer diagnoses and cutting edge treatments using a multi-disciplinary approach.

Among the many cancer types that doctors here treat is mesothelioma. The Washington Cancer Institute, and its patients benefit from having one of the world’s leaders in peritoneal mesothelioma, Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, as the Director of Surgical Oncology. Dr. Sugarbaker and his colleagues bring their expertise, the results of research, and clinical trials to bear on providing the best treatment for their patients.

About the Washington Cancer Institute

The Washington Cancer Institute was established in 1992 and is Washington D.C.’s largest provider of cancer care, treating more cancer patients than any other facility in the city. The Cancer Institute sees nearly 100,000 patients per year. It is affiliated with the Washington Hospital Center, a non-profit, private hospital center and part of MedStar Health. The hospital is large, with more than 400,000 patients per year. It is also a referral facility, and regional hospitals refer thousands of difficult cases there each year.

Treating Mesothelioma

The Washington Cancer Institute is one of few facilities in the nation that can offer expert care for mesothelioma patients. The philosophy of treatment is multi-disciplinary and patient-centered. A team of doctors, rather than just one oncologist, works with the patient to develop an individualized treatment plan after completing a thorough and accurate diagnosis and staging. A typical treatment plan for a mesothelioma patient involves surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy in some combination, as well as any targeted therapies or immunotherapies that may be useful.

Patients being treated for mesothelioma here also benefit from supportive care to supplement medical and surgical treatments. The Cancer Institute is patient-focused and that means the staff here is dedicated to making patients comfortable and to meeting more than just medical needs. Patients can coordinate with a nurse or social worker who provides supportive care for them and their families.

All kinds of mesothelioma patients can expect to get expert care at the Washington Cancer Institute, but this is particularly an important center for the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma. This is the kind of mesothelioma that grows in the lining of the abdominal cavity. Like pleural mesothelioma, it grows and spreads rapidly, making it difficult to diagnose and treat. Unlike many other cancers it does not grow in just one or two large tumors, but as multiple small growths. This makes surgery to remove the cancer challenging.

Dr. Paul Sugarbaker and the Sugarbaker Procedure

A major reason that the Washington Cancer Institute has become a center for peritoneal mesothelioma is the leadership of Dr. Sugarbaker. As the Director of Surgical Oncology, he leads the team of experts who surgically treat cancer patients. During his distinguished career he became a specialist at understanding and treating cancers of the abdominal cavity, including peritoneal mesothelioma.

Dr. Sugarbaker developed a treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma that has extended patients’ lives and improved the quality of life for these patients. Named for him the procedure involves performing cytoreductive surgery. This is a surgical procedure that aims to remove as much of the visible cancer from the abdominal cavity as possible. It is followed by the circulation of heated chemotherapy drugs directly through the cavity—this part of the procedure is called heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy. This serves to kill cancer cells the surgeon could not reach. Patients with peritoneal cancer come to the Washington Cancer Institute hoping to qualify for the procedure performed by the doctor who developed it.

Innovative Radiation Therapy

The Washington Cancer Institute also specializes in radiation therapy, an important part of treatment for many mesothelioma patients. The Institute is staffed by specialists in radiation oncology and houses some of the most advanced equipment for using radiation to treat cancer. Some of the technologies that can be used to treat mesothelioma here include computerized treatment planning, brachytherapy, gamma knife radiosurgery, image-guided radiation therapy, and intensity-modulated radiation therapy. The department may also use proton therapy, a cutting edge treatment that uses protons instead of X-rays to better target cancer cells and save healthy tissue.

The Cancer Preventorium

A unique program at the Washington Cancer Institute is the Cancer Preventorium. Its exclusive purpose is to prevent cancer and detect it early. The Preventorium offers several services including an evaluation of cancer risks, individual counseling on reducing cancer risks, screenings to detect cancer early, and education including self-exams and detecting early signs of cancer. The Preventorium was established in 1994 to prevent cancer to the extent it is possible, and when not to diagnose it early so that it can be treated more effectively.

Research and Clinical Trials

The Washington Hospital Center is not just a treatment center, but is also a center for education and research, which extends to the Cancer Institute. The staff here is committed to patient-centered treatment and care, but also to cancer research. Research leads directly to better treatments and diagnostics. The research conducted here includes clinical trials. These are the studies that utilize patients to help determine if new treatments, like targeted therapy drugs, are safe and effective. Patients that come to the Washington Cancer Institute for care may have the opportunity to benefit from participating in clinical trials.

As a leader in the treatment of several types of cancer, including mesothelioma and especially peritoneal mesothelioma, the Washington Cancer Center draws patients from around the region and around the country. From nearby areas, patients are referred here when their cases are complex. These patients benefit from the expertise of specialists and a multi-disciplinary approach as well as from the research and clinical trials conducted here.

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