Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Robert Cameron has been a longtime pioneer in developing the aggressive, lung-sparing pleurectomy and decortication surgery that many others now have adopted. No one does it better.
Dr. Robert Cameron is the director of the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he also serves as chief of thoracic surgery.
He splits his time between UCLA, the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center and the nearby Pacific Mesothelioma Center. He is a leader at every stop.
He has been treating patients with pleural mesothelioma for 25 years, leaving his mark with a tireless quest to help those who badly need his expertise.
“I really feel an obligation to my patients because there are so few people out there treating it correctly,” he said. “Mesothelioma is a cancer that few really know. The patients are desperate and susceptible to people who don’t know what they are doing.”
Pleural mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that is diagnosed in an estimated 2,000 people each year in the United States. Many doctors, even oncologists, rarely see it. Few know the intricacies of the disease like Cameron.
Cameron was touting and refining the pleurectomy and decortication instead of the extrapleural pneumonectomy as the surgery of choice long before others adopted the practice.
His belief was the lung-sparing approach of the P/D was less debilitating than the EPP, allowing patients to recover quicker and be more receptive physically to adjuvant therapies.
Over the past decade, most thoracic surgeons and mesothelioma specialists have followed his lead.
Cameron was one of the first to treat mesothelioma like a chronic illness, working to control the disease and slow its growth instead of trying to eliminate every last tumor cell.
His Pacific Mesothelioma Center — a division of the Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute — has been at the forefront of developing innovative therapies beyond the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy routine.
His meticulous P/D procedure, which can last 12 hours or more, removes all visible tumor cells from the chest cavity while sparing the lung, the lining of the heart and the diaphragm.
The surgery is often followed by precise radiation, designed to avoid unnecessary toxicity while killing tumor cells left behind.
Cameron believes in frequent, well-tolerated follow-up therapies over concentrated treatments with excessive toxicity. Quality of life is something he takes seriously.
He speaks often of the research needed to find novel screening, diagnostic, staging and treatment approaches for the disease.
“A lot of people mean well, but they unknowingly are hurting people with the way they treat this disease,” he said. “You can’t get stuck in the idea of having to cure it. We can be good at controlling it.”
Cameron also treats lung cancer, esophageal cancer and chest wall tumors. He does robotic and minimally invasive surgery of the lung, thymus and mediastinum.
He earned his degree in 1984 from the UCLA Medical School, where he also did an internship and residency. He completed fellowships at the National Cancer Institute and the Cornell University Medical Center.
He founded the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program in 1997, building it into one of the premier specialty centers in the country.
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