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    Mesothelioma Treatment Program Expanding in Central Florida

    Treatment & Doctors

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    When he first joined AdventHealth Orlando in 2019, thoracic surgeon Dr. Marcelo DaSilva wondered just how successful he could be in creating a mesothelioma specialty center in Central Florida.

    Now he knows.

    DaSilva was initially hoping to create a program that would allow Florida mesothelioma patients to stay closer to home – instead of traveling across the country – and still get the best possible treatment for this rare, tough-to-treat malignancy.

    But he’s already done considerably more. His vision has grown, and so has his program. More patients will benefit greatly.

    DaSilva recently expanded his program to involve sister facility AdventHealth Celebration, a state-of-the-art, resort-style hospital in nearby Kissimmee, Florida.

    Mesothelioma Research Expertise Is Critical

    AdventHealth Celebration is where DaSilva joins forces with esteemed medical oncologist and mesothelioma specialist Dr. George Simon, who has been lauded for his cutting-edge clinical research involving immunotherapy.

    Simon came to Celebration a year ago from MD Anderson Cancer Center to lead the collaborative research efforts between the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and the AdventHealth Cancer Institute in Orlando.

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    “Now we have the best of two very robust cancer programs behind us,” DaSilva told The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com. “I think we are on the verge of becoming known as the premier mesothelioma program in the country. There is no other place with so many great options to help patients.”

    His Mesothelioma International Treatment Program at Celebration will have it all, according to DaSilva, who will continue seeing patients and performing aggressive surgery at both AdventHealth locations.

    “I’m super excited about all of this now,” he said. “A chance to treat is a chance to cure. I’m not saying we can cure everyone, but I want to have that chance. I want to give patients that opportunity. We have the best of everything here.”

    Building on Dr. Sugarbaker’s Legacy

    DaSilva, chief of thoracic surgery and medical director at AdventHealth Cancer Institute, previously spent 12 years at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, arguably among the best-known mesothelioma treatment facilities in the country.

    He trained under, and worked alongside, legendary thoracic surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker, a mesothelioma treatment pioneer who died in 2018.

    Sugarbaker, known as a surgical perfectionist, provided DaSilva with a template in Boston on how to build and grow an elite program.

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    He also taught DaSilva the multimodal, holistic approach to treatment that goes well beyond the operating room. Like Sugarbaker always did, DaSilva talks about the mental as well as the physical well-being of each patient.

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    DaSilva earned his reputation as a patient-focused surgeon, encouraging calls to his cellphone with follow-up questions and concerns. His love of patients stems from his father, also a surgeon, who set him on a medical path in life.

    “I see too many of the long-established programs going sideways now. A lot of doctors can do the operations, but not with the passion that is needed today. Putting your heart and soul into it makes a difference,” DaSilva said. “I care deeply about each patient. I think they will want to come see us, with what we can offer.”

    The Mesothelioma International Treatment Program will go beyond the multimodality treatment of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation that several specialty centers in the U.S. can provide.

    “We are pooling our talents and expertise to create a state-of-the-art mesothelioma program,” Simon said. “The necessary skills, the necessary components, are all right here to help these patients.”

    Specialists to Focus on Novel Immunotherapies

    Simon was initially hired to build the clinical research program at AdventHealth Celebration, a collaborative effort between Moffitt and AdventHealth that will improve treatment for many cancers.

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    His expertise in thoracic oncology, particularly pleural mesothelioma, fits perfectly into DaSilva’s program. Simon is hoping to open a research program designed specifically for mesothelioma.

    For years he has been studying the recently FDA-approved immunotherapy combination of Opdivo and Yervoy, and other drugs such as Keytruda.

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    “We’re also studying more novel immunotherapies that may be available for patients who have exhausted other options,” Simon said. “We’ll be at the front of new drug development.”

    DaSilva will soon be announcing the addition of at least two more mesothelioma specialists, coming from established centers, who will join him and Simon in Central Florida.

    Doctors and patients alike are attracted to AdventHealth Celebration’s innovative approach to health care and its location in the Walt Disney World planned community of Celebration, in the shadow of the booming tourism industry.

    It’s an uplifting facility.

    “Celebration is a really unique place – and I don’t use that word ‘unique’ lightly,” Simon said. “There are a lot of things to like about it. It’s designed to really make patients feel at home. And we can really help patients here.”

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