James M. Isbell, MD, MSCI

Thoracic Surgical Oncologist & Intensivist

Conditions Treated

Thoracic surgical oncologist James Isbell
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About Me

I am a board-certified thoracic surgical oncologist with expertise in minimally invasive techniques including video-assisted thoracic surgery and robotic-assisted techniques. My goal is to help my patients return to normal activities as quickly as possible.

I see approximately 400 people with cancers of the chest cavity each year. Fortunately, we have multiple treatment options to choose from. But deciding which of these options is best can be intimidating to some of my patients and their families. Several of my closest family members have been diagnosed with cancer, so I can relate. I strive to provide patients and families with all the information they need to have a full understanding of treatment options available to them. At the same time, I work with my colleagues in the Thoracic Oncology Service to develop a treatment plan that is in line with my patients’ wishes.

In addition to my clinical work, my research interests are centered on two areas: comparative effectiveness and health outcomes research, and clinical trials and innovative technology development related to surgical thoracic oncology. From a health outcomes research standpoint, I am investigating how variability in care of people with lung cancer across the United States may contribute to the difference in outcomes observed. From a clinical trials and technology perspective, I am interested in developing methods to detect lung cancer at earlier stages to improve long-term survival.

  • Clinical Expertise: Lung and Esophageal Cancer; Minimally Invasive Surgery, Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS); Thymic Tumors; Chest Wall Tumors; Pulmonary Metastases; Mesothelioma; Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS)
  • Languages Spoken: English
  • Education: MD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School
  • Residencies: General Surgery - Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Thoracic Surgery - University of Virginia Health System
  • Fellowships: Surgical Critical Care - University of Virginia Health System
  • Board Certifications: General Surgery; Thoracic Surgery; Surgical Critical Care


Isbell JM, Deppen S., Putnam J.B. Jr., Nesbitt J.C., Lambright E.S., Dawes A., MassionP.P., Speroff T., Jones D.R., and Grogan E.L. Existing general population models inaccurately predict lung cancer risk in patients referred for surgical evaluation. Annals of Thoracic Surgery 91:227-33, 2011.

Isbell JM and Jones DR. Parenchymal-sparing lung resections: technique of sleeve resections. Operative Techniques in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery: A Comparative Atlas. 2011; 16:215-25.

Taylor MD, Lapar DJ, Davis JP, Isbell JM, Kozower BD, Lau CL, Jones DR. Induction chemoradiotherapy and surgery for esophageal cancer: survival benefit with downstaging. Annals of Thoracic Surgery 96: 225-230, 2013.

Walters DM, Vaughn NH, Isbell JM, Jeffus SK, Atkins KA, Sauer BG, Jones DR. Leiomyoma presenting as a massive calcified circumferential esophageal mass. Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 2013; 96:1851-4.

Taylor MD, Lapar DJ, Isbell JM, Kozower BD, Lau CL, Jones DR. Marginal pulmonary function should not preclude lobectomy in selected patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. 2014; 147:738-44.

Hu Y, McMurry TL, Wells KM, Isbell JM, Stukenborg GJ, Kozower BD. Postoperative mortality is an inadequate quality indicator for lung cancer resection. Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 2014; 97:973-9.

Hu Y, McMurry TL, Isbell JM, Stukenborg GJ, Kozower BD. Readmission after lung cancer resection is associated with a 6-fold increase in 90-day postoperative mortality. Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. 2014; 148:2261-7.

Walters DM, McMurry TL, Isbell JM, Stukenborg GJ, Kozower BD. Understanding mortality as a quality indicator after esophagectomy. Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 2014; 2:506-512.

Kiankhooy A, Taylor MD, LaPar DJ, Isbell JM, Lau CL, Kozower BD, Jones DR. Predictors of early recurrence for node-negative T1 and T2 non-small cell lung cancer. Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 2014; 4:1175-83.

Visit PubMed for a full listing of James M. Isbell’s journal articles

Pubmed is an online index of biomedical articles maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

Clinical Trials

Research is integral to our mission at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and clinical trials help us discover better forms of patient care and treatment. For you, this could mean access to a new therapy or therapy combination. Click to see a list of the trials I’m currently leading.


Most major health insurers offer plans that include MSK as one of their in-network providers. If MSK is in-network, it means all our doctors are too. Medicare and New York State Medicaid also provide benefits for care at MSK.

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