Treatment and doctors
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When he first joined AdventHealth Orlando in 2019, thoracic surgeon Dr. Marcelo DaSilva wondered how successful he was in setting up a mesothelioma specialist center in Central Florida.
Now he knows.
DaSilva initially hoped to create a program that would allow mesothelioma patients in Florida to stay close to home — rather than travel across the country — and continue to receive the best possible treatment for this rare, hard-to-treat malignancy.
But he has already done so much more. His vision grew and so did his program. More patients will benefit greatly.
DaSilva recently expanded its program to sister facility AdventHealth Celebration, a state-of-the-art resort-style hospital in nearby Kissimmee, Florida.
Research experience in mesothelioma is critical
AdventHealth Celebration is where DaSilva collaborates with highly regarded medical oncologist and mesothelioma specialist Dr. George Simon, who has been praised for his cutting-edge clinical research involving immunotherapy.
Simon attended the ceremony a year ago from MD Anderson Cancer Center to lead the collaborative research effort between the Moffett Cancer Center in Tampa and Advent Health Cancer Institute in Orlando.
“We now have two strong cancer programs behind us,” DaSilva told Asbestos.com’s Mesothelioma Center. “I think we are on the cusp of becoming known as the number one mesothelioma program in the country. Nowhere else has so many great options for helping patients.”
Celebration’s International Mesothelioma Treatment Program will get it all, according to DaSilva, who will continue to see patients and perform severe surgeries at both AdventHealth locations.
“I’m really excited about all this right now,” he said. “Treatment opportunity is opportunity to be cured. I am not saying we can cure everyone, but I want to have that opportunity. I want to give patients that opportunity. We have the best of everything here.”
Building on the legacy of Dr. Sugar Baker
DaSilva, MD, chief of thoracic surgery and medical director at the AdventHealth Cancer Institute, has previously spent 12 years at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and is arguably among the most popular mesothelioma treatment facilities in the country.
Trained under and worked with legendary thoracic surgeon Dr. David Sugarbecker, he is a pioneer in treating mesothelioma and passed away in 2018.
Sugarbaker, better known as Surgical Perfection, provided DaSilva with a model in Boston on how to build and grow an elite program.
He also taught DaSilva the holistic, multimodal approach to treatment that goes beyond the operating room. Just like Sugar Baker has always done, DaSilva talks about the mental and physical health of each patient.
DaSilva earned his reputation as a patient-focused surgeon, encouraging calls on his mobile phone with follow-up questions and concerns. His love for patients stems from his father, also a surgeon, who set him on the path of healing in life.
“I see a lot of long-established programs going sideways now. A lot of doctors can do surgeries, but not with the passion needed today. Putting your heart and soul into it makes a difference,” DaSilva said. “I care deeply about every patient. I think they’ll want to see us, with what we can offer.”
The International Mesothelioma Program will go beyond the multimodal treatment of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation that many specialized centers in the United States can provide.
“We are pooling our talents and experience to create a modern mesothelioma program,” Simon said. “The necessary skills, the necessary ingredients, are all here to help these patients.”
Specialists to focus on new immunotherapies
Simon was initially set to build the Clinical Research Program at AdventHealth Celebration, a collaborative effort between Moffitt and AdventHealth that would improve treatment for many types of cancer.
His expertise in treating chest tumors, particularly pleural mesothelioma, fits in perfectly with the DaSilva programme. Simon hopes to open a research program designed specifically for mesothelioma.
For years, he’s been studying the recently approved FDA-approved immunotherapy combination of Opdivo and Yervoy, and other drugs like Keytruda.
“We are also studying more new immunotherapies that may be available to patients who have exhausted other options,” Simon said. “We will be at the forefront of developing new drugs.”
DaSilva will soon announce the addition of at least two other mesothelioma specialists, coming from existing centers, who he and Simone will be joining in Central Florida.
Clinicians and patients alike are attracted to AdventHealth Celebration’s innovative approach to healthcare and its location in the Walt Disney World planned community of Celebration, in the midst of a burgeoning tourism industry.
It is an upscale facility.
“Celebration is a really unique place — and I don’t use the word ‘unique’ lightly,” Simon said. “There is a lot to like about this theme. It is designed to make patients feel really at home. We can really help patients here.”
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