Thoracic surgical oncologist James Isbell

James M. Isbell, MD, MSCI

Thoracic Surgical Oncologist & Intensivist

Titles

Director, Quality and Outcomes, Thoracic Surgery Service, Director, Memorial Hospital Step Down Unit, Co-Director, Thoracic Liquid Biopsy Program

Clinical Expertise

Lung Cancer; Minimally Invasive Surgery, Robotic Surgery; Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS); Esophageal Cancer; Esophageal Disorders; Mediastinal Tumors; Thymic Tumors; Chest Wall Tumors; Pulmonary Metastases; Mesothelioma; Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS); Pleural Diseases; Liquid Biopsy

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Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., (Eastern time)
Accepted Insurance Providers

Dr. Isbell accepts the following list of insurance providers. Select your insurance provider to see more details.

Aetna

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO, EPO PPO, POS, Transplant

Aetna Medicare Advantage (City of NY retirees only, starting 7/1/23)

Payor Type:
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO

Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee Program

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO, PPO

Blue Cross Blue Shield New York

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, POS, EPO, HMO

Blue Cross Blue Shield states outside of NY/NJ

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO, EPO PPO, POS

Blue Cross Health Plus

Payor Type: Medicaid/Managed Medicaid
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO

Carrum Health

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): Supplemental

Cigna

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, POS, HMO

Connecticare

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): POS, EPO, HMO

Emblem

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, POS, EPO, HMO

Emblem Essential

Payor Type: Medicaid/Managed Medicaid
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO

Emblem Medicare Advantage

Payor Type:
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, HMO

Empire Blue Cross Medicare Advantage

Payor Type:
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, HMO, DSN

Empire Essential

Payor Type: Medicaid/Managed Medicaid
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO

Empire Plan / NYSHIP (Blue Cross/UnitedHealthcare split plan)

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO

Fidelis

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO, EPO

Fidelis Managed Medicaid & HARP

Payor Type: Medicaid/Managed Medicaid
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO

Fidelis Medicare Advantage

Payor Type:
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO

First Health

Payor Type:
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO

Healthfirst

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): EPO, HMO, PPO, POS

Healthfirst Managed Medicaid

Payor Type: Medicaid/Managed Medicaid
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO

Healthfirst Medicare Advantage

Payor Type:
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO, PPO

Healthsmart

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO EPO

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey (HMO)

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey (PPO)

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey Omnia Tier I (EPO)

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): EPO

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey Omnia Tier II (EPO)

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): EPO

Horizon Medicare Advantage

Payor Type:
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, HMO

Husky CT Medicaid

Payor Type: Medicaid/Managed Medicaid
In Network Coverage Type(s): State Government

Magnacare

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, POS, EPO

Medicare Part A&B (traditional Medicare)

Payor Type:
In Network Coverage Type(s): Federal Government

Multiplan/Beech Street/PHCS

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): Supplemental

MVP

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO/OAP

Non-Participating Plans with Out of Network Benefits

Payor Type: Other
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, POS, EPO, HMO

NYC Medicare Advantage Plus for City Employees

Payor Type:
In Network Coverage Type(s): TBD

Oscar

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): HMO/EPO

Oxford

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, EPO

Qualcare

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, POS, HMO

Straight NJ Medicaid

Payor Type: Medicaid/Managed Medicaid
In Network Coverage Type(s): State Government

Straight NY Medicaid

Payor Type: Medicaid/Managed Medicaid
In Network Coverage Type(s): State Government

Tricare

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, HMO

UMR

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, POS

United Healthcare

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): PPO, POS, HMO

World Trade Center Health Program (WTC)

Payor Type: Commercial
In Network Coverage Type(s): State Government

Contact and Location

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Find a Convenient Location

Memorial Sloan Kettering has locations throughout New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, and Westchester. These locations offer many services, including screening, chemotherapy, and medical testing.

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About Me

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; Surgical Critical Care - Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Board Certifications

General Surgery; Thoracic Surgery; Surgical Critical Care

I am a thoracic surgeon who cares for people with cancers of the chest. These include lung cancer, esophageal cancer, mediastinal tumors, thymic tumors, mesothelioma and chest wall tumors, as well as cancers that have metastasized (spread) to the lung from other parts of the body.

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I have particular expertise in minimally invasive techniques such as robotic-assisted and video-assisted thoracic surgery, which can help minimize pain and speed recovery. I see approximately 400 patients with cancers of the chest each year and perform approximately 300 procedures annually. I strive to use minimally invasive approaches whenever possible so patients can recover as quickly as possible.

Having experienced cancer in several members of my own family, I can relate to how patients and their families may feel overwhelmed by a new cancer diagnosis and the potential treatment options.  It can be intimidating to select which treatment is right for them. I take the time to answer patients’ questions so they have all the information they need to decide the next steps in their care. I work closely with my colleagues in medical oncology, radiation oncology, and pathology to develop a treatment plan for each patient that reflects their wishes for the best possible outcome and an improved quality of life.

In addition to being a thoracic surgeon, I am board-certified in surgical critical care and take care of patients in MSK’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). I also serve as Director of the Memorial Hospital Step-Down Unit, which provides care for medical and surgical patients who need intermediate-level care.

As Co-Director of MSK’s multidisciplinary Thoracic Liquid Biopsy Program, I research liquid biopsies - technologies that test blood and other fluids and are therefore less invasive than tissue biopsies. Liquid biopsies can improve the early detection and precision treatment of lung cancer, as well as monitor changes in a patient’s disease. I am leading clinical trials to investigate whether a liquid biopsy is useful in guiding treatment decisions among patients with early lung cancers that can be surgically removed, and to test for the very first signs that their cancer has recurred when there is a better chance of curative treatment.

I also study ways to better predict complications after surgery to help patients with thoracic cancers decide which treatment is best for them.

Outside of work I enjoy spending time with my wife, who is a pediatrician, and our three children. We have fun going hiking and camping and often take weekend road trips. We also love traveling. Our most memorable trip was to Ireland, and we look forward to planning our next vacation together.

Awards and Honors

  • Castle Connolly: America's Top Doctors (2023)

Colleagues

Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering work as teams, with specialists from all different areas. This allows us to consider all your needs together, and to give you the best possible care.

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Clinical Trials

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Find a Clinical Trial for You

Memorial Sloan Kettering's doctors and scientists are constantly developing new treatments for cancer. MSK is typically running hundreds of clinical trials at a given time.

You may be able to participate in a clinical trial even if you are new to MSK. Search our online directory to find trial information and see more about who can participate.

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Research and Publications

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.

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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.

Publications on PubMed

Visit PubMed for a full listing of Dr. Isbell’s journal articles. Pubmed is an online index of research papers and other articles from the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

See all on PubMed

Disclosures

Doctors and faculty members often work with pharmaceutical, device, biotechnology, and life sciences companies, and other organizations outside of MSK, to find safe and effective cancer treatments, to improve patient care, and to educate the health care community.

MSK requires doctors and faculty members to report (“disclose”) the relationships and financial interests they have with external entities. As a commitment to transparency with our community, we make that information available to the public.

James M. Isbell discloses the following relationships and financial interests:

  • LumaCyte
    Ownership / Equity Interests

If you’re a patient at MSK and would like more information about your doctor’s external relationships, please talk with your doctor.

The information published here is for a specific annual disclosure period. There may be differences between information on this and other public sites as a result of different reporting periods and/or the various ways relationships and financial interests are categorized by organizations that publish such data.


This page and data include information for a specific MSK annual disclosure period (January 1, 2021 through disclosure submission in spring 2022). This data reflects interests that may or may not still exist. This data is updated annually.

Learn more about MSK’s COI policies here. For questions regarding MSK’s COI-related policies and procedures, email MSK’s Compliance Office at [email protected].


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