Dr. Raphael Bueno is the Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a top mesothelioma treatment center. He discovered a new technique that makes diagnosing mesothelioma easier and more accurate.

About Dr. Raphael Bueno

Brigham and Women’s Hospital
75 Francis St., Boston, Massachusetts

Phone: 617-732-7696
Email: rbueno@partners.org

Dr. Raphael Bueno

Dr. Raphael Bueno began his medical training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), one of the foremost mesothelioma treatment centers in the United States. There, he worked closely with the innovator of the highly successful extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), Dr. David Sugarbaker.

After his surgical training at BWH, Dr. Bueno completed an additional residency in cardiothoracic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. He then rejoined the Thoracic Surgery department at BWH, where he currently spends his time developing new diagnostic techniques and refining standard pleural mesothelioma surgeries.

Improving the Diagnosis of Mesothelioma Through Research

Dr. Sugarbaker’s Research and Expertise

Dr. Bueno was drawn back to work at BWH because of their Thoracic Surgery Tumor Bank, a database containing over 600 frozen samples of malignant mesothelioma. The Thoracic Tumor Bank allows researchers to access samples of mesothelioma for research into the genetic makeup of the disease. This gives specialists an insight into how cancer cells work and helps them create treatments targeting mesothelioma at a molecular level.

Through his own research, Dr. Bueno discovered a genetic algorithm known as the gene ratio technique, a method through which mesothelioma and adenocarcinoma can be differentiated under the microscope. Normally, mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose because it looks very similar to other cancers, like adenocarcinoma and several different types of sarcomas.

The gene ratio technique helps specialists tell mesothelioma cells apart from those of other cancers, allowing them to diagnose mesothelioma earlier and more accurately. Getting an accurate and early diagnoses opens up more treatment options for patients, improving their chances for a better prognosis.

However, the gene ratio technique has one drawback. It normally requires a large biopsy sample, which has to be taken via an invasive surgical procedure, like a thoracotomy. Dr. Bueno recognized this drawback and is currently refining the gene ratio technique so that it requires a smaller tissue sample from patients.

Making the technique more efficient means that specialists can extract what they need for the test via a less invasive biopsy, like a fine needle aspiration. This also reduces recovery time, which is ultimately beneficial to the patient.

Creating a Nationwide Tumor Bank

Dr. Bueno plans to expand the type of genetic mesothelioma research he innovated at BWH to other cancer centers across the country. He is currently working towards creating a network of mesothelioma treatment facilities, each of which will contribute to a “super bank” of mesothelioma tumor samples.

This nationwide tumor bank will provide researchers with a wide variety of mesothelioma samples that can be studied in different institutions across the United States. Making mesothelioma research easier can lead to more efficient treatments, and possibly a cure, in the future.

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Leading the Study of Defactinib

As a research-minded specialist, Dr. Bueno never strays far from being directly involved in the testing and development of new mesothelioma treatments. He is currently heading up a clinical trial testing the effectiveness of of defactinib, a drug that interrupts communication between mesothelioma cells.

Defactinib essentially slows down, and can potentially stop, the growth of mesothelioma tumors. With this clinical trial, Dr. Bueno plans to test how effective defactinib is in shrinking tumors before surgery. If defactinib proves successful, mesothelioma removal will likely be safer and easier than ever before.

Defactinib can also benefit patients diagnosed with advanced-stage mesothelioma. Advanced-stage patients do not typically qualify for surgery because the mesothelioma has spread too far. Defactinib can help keep the mesothelioma tumor growth down and may even be able to shrink it to a manageable size, potentially extending the patient’s survival time.

If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, Our Patient Advocate Team can help connect you to experienced mesothelioma specialists like Dr. Bueno.


Medical Degree
Harvard Medical School

Brigham and Women’s Hospital, General Surgery Residency, 1993 Massachusetts General Hospital, Thoracic Surgery Residency, 1995


  • Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School, 2000-2010
  • Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School, 2011 – present

Research Interests

  • Developing more effective diagnostic tests for mesothelioma and lung cancer
  • Minimally invasive surgery
  • Multimodal therapy

Choosing the Right Doctor

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you can get the best treatment — and extend your life expectancy — by connecting to an experienced specialist like Dr. Raaphael Bueno. Even if you’ve already been diagnosed, getting a second opinion from a doctor who’s diagnosed and treated mesothelioma may open up more treatment options for you, giving you a chance to improve your prognosis.

Reach out to a member of our Patient Help Team today for assistance with finding an experienced doctor, top treatment center, or even financial aid that can pay for treatment. You can also order a free copy of our informational guide for more information about your mesothelioma, treatment options, and how to receive the right care for your prognosis.