Dr. Joseph Friedberg heads the Division of Thoracic Surgery and is a professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, where he specializes in the development of new therapies for the treatment of mesothelioma and other lung cancers. In addition to his patient practice and duties as a professor, Friedberg’s extensive research has been widely published in Surgical Forum, Advances in Experimental Medicine & Biology, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, and other reputable medical journals.
One of Friedberg’s most promising areas of research involves the use of photodynamic therapy (PDT), which employs a photosensitizing drug that interacts with a certain type of light to kill cancerous cells. His application involves PDT-generated autologous (meaning it is derived from each individual patient) tumor vaccines in order to suppress the growth of secondary tumors after surgery. Through his studies and in his practice, Friedberg discovered that patients who underwent surgery that spares both lungs in combination with PDT had much better survival rates than those who opted for having a lung removed (the more traditional route). Since there is no cure for mesothelioma, he and other leading physicians in the field have made it their mission to treat the illness as a manageable chronic disease rather than a terminal one.
Friedberg is currently developing a treatment called photobrachytherapy that uses a combination of radioisotopes, photosensitizers, immunotherapy, and other tools to suppress tumor growth. He also is researching the potential for a lung cancer vaccine.
In addition, Friedberg is working on an inhaled sealant for sealing pulmonary air leaks, which occur in roughly one of every 10 patients who undergo the pleurectomy/decortication procedure (a treatment for pleural mesothelioma). Other clinical developments include a new type of surgical drain and a device to allow minimally invasive control of major blood vessels during surgery. While his focus is mesothelioma, Friedberg also has an interest in chest wall tumors, pulmonary metastasis, diaphragm disorders, and pneumothorax.
Friedberg’s numerous published studies include research into models for studying the development of immune function in the small intestine; the role of surgery in the management of non-small cell lung cancer; the role of radiation therapy in the management of lung cancer; lung volume reduction surgery; and much more.
Having received a bachelor of applied science (BASc) degree from the University of Pennsylvania College of Engineering and Applied Science, Friedberg earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1986. He served a number of residencies, internships, and fellowships at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard, and Massachusetts General Hospital before taking on a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 1994.
Friedberg served as the Chief of Thoracic Surgery and co-director of the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Disease Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, where he also was an associate professor. He accepted the Chief of Thoracic Surgery position at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 2015.
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