Dr. W. Charles Conway is director of surgical oncology at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center in Santa Barbara, California, and an innovative leader in advancing the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma.
About Dr. W. Charles Conway
Dr. W. Charles Conway joined the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center in 2017 with the goal of building one of the country’s finest specialty centers for the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma. He is well on his way.
As director of surgical oncology, Conway has assembled a multidisciplinary staff of specialists. This has allowed patients with peritoneal diseases in the Santa Barbara area to stay closer to home and still receive excellence in care.
“This is exciting to build a program like this, putting it together the way you think is best,” Conway said. “One of the reasons I made the move here was to take on that challenge and grow a new program.”
Filling a Void for Mesothelioma Cancer Patients
His arrival has eliminated the need for patients to travel to Los Angeles or San Francisco, as in the past, to get the all-important specialized treatment for mesothelioma.
Conway specializes in the detailed cytoreductive surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, often called the HIPEC procedure, which is only done at select cancer centers across the country.
The procedure can take up to 12 hours in the operating room, often leading to a long but successful road to recovery. No cure is promised, but the procedure has shown the ability to increase survival time dramatically.
“There was a tremendous need here for mesothelioma expertise,” Conway said. “With a rare cancer like this, it’s incredibly important to find a center with the experience to handle it. Most surgeons don’t want anything to do with it. As a patient, you should find one with experience in complex, abdominal surgeries. We do a lot of them, and our outcomes are good.”
Treating Rare Peritoneal Mesothelioma Cancer
An estimated 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed annually in the U.S., and only 20% of those are the peritoneal type, which can spread throughout the abdominal cavity and nearby organs.
Conway has worked across a wide range of abdominal cancers, including complex surgeries involving the pancreas, gallbladder, liver, bowel and esophagus. His clinical interests also include upper-GI oncology surgery.
Conway previously spent eight years in New Orleans at the Ochsner Cancer, where he performed the first robotic Whipple procedure for pancreatic cancer. Much of his work involves minimally invasive surgeries, which translate into quicker recoveries.
His move to Ridley-Tree was part of a larger endeavor to improve health care on California’s central coast. The effort included the opening of a new, high-tech $68 million multidisciplinary facility.
Conway earned his medical degree from Wayne State University in Detroit and completed his residency and internship at Wayne State University’s Detroit Medical Center. He finished a fellowship at John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica.
He is an active member of several professional organizations, including the American College of Surgeons and the Society of Surgical Oncology.
At Ochsner, Conway worked alongside Dr. Rodney Landreneau, a world-renowned expert in thoracic surgical oncology and pleural mesothelioma. Together, they turned Ochsner into the South’s premier mesothelioma specialty center.
“These mesothelioma patients are in a tough spot, but you can make a difference with hard work and the experience we have,” Conway said. “It’s a difficult operation we do, and the post-operative care is tough, but we are well equipped to handle it here now.”