Meet Thoracic Surgeon David Jones


David Jones is a surgeon who cares for patients with cancers of the chest, including lung and esophageal cancers. As Chief of the Thoracic Surgery Service, he shares his thoughts on the future of treatment for these diseases and offers insight into the strengths of the Memorial Sloan Kettering surgical team. In addition to seeing patients in Manhattan, Dr. Jones will soon be practicing at MSK’s new ambulatory cancer care facility opening in West Harrison, NY in October 2014.

What drew you to oncology and how did you end up specializing in thoracic surgery?

I became interested in oncology when I was a medical student performing tumor biology research. The laboratory where I worked was interested in how precancerous cells become cancerous and if there are changes in specific genes or proteins that could predict which patient would ultimately develop a cancer.

Great mentors who were superb surgeons and academic leaders in the field inspired my interest in thoracic surgery. These surgeons were trained at the very best institutions at the time, and their interest and passion was very appealing to me.

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What is special or different about being a surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering?

MSK surgeons not only are superbly trained, they are also members of a highly select group of some of the most skilled surgeons in the world. In addition to possessing the highest level of surgical expertise, our surgeons exercise superb judgment of when and how to best perform a given procedure.

MSK surgeons have a singular focus on cancer or premalignant conditions, which provides them with a clarity of purpose. Moreover, our surgeons embrace the multidisciplinary aspects of cancer care and understand and appreciate the latest advances in medical and radiation oncology. Lastly, one of the most important missions for MSK surgeons is to innovate, perform patient-centered research, and generate novel therapies and procedures that will improve the care of our patients and that will serve as a model for other programs across the world.

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What is the most important thing you tell patients when they come to see you?

At the end of every new patient office visit, I shake the patient’s hand, look him or her in the eye, and make a promise to take good care of that person. I specifically like to use the word “care” in my conversations with patients because we have all had that experience of feeling cared for in one way or another in our lives. It seems like a small thing to do, but there is amazing power in the physical contact that a handshake provides between a surgeon and an often scared and anxious patient who is facing a potentially deadly disease.

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Where do you see your field going in the next five to ten years and how will that affect patient care?

In thoracic surgery, tragically we will continue to see an increase in the number of patients diagnosed with lung and esophageal cancers. Many lung cancer patients will be nonsmokers or patients who quit smoking ten to 20 years ago. Most of these patients will be older, and we need to be prepared to offer them operations that can give them the best chance of a cure while preserving their quality of life. These procedures will almost always involve minimally invasive approaches to remove their tumors.

In the next decade I believe we will see a more robust use of intraoperative imaging of tumors to guide our surgeons. There will also be more routine use of genomic and molecular characterization of lung and esophageal cancers that will inform decisions regarding treatment plans. I also believe that there will be continuing efforts to codify and standardize best practices in diagnosing and treating our patients with thoracic malignancies.

These efforts should be designed to provide the most-efficient and cost-effective care without sacrificing quality or superior outcomes. This will be a real challenge, but surgeons must take a leadership role. It is a very exciting time to be a thoracic surgeon — particularly an MSK thoracic surgeon.

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does anyone with stage 4 cancer survive if it has gone to the bones liver and other lung. My husband was diagnoised and 41 days later he died. He
never had chemo and only 7 treatments of radiation. I am beside myself as we didn't see it coming and had no symtoms. I feel like I didn't do enough for him.

Nancy, our deepest condolences on your husband’s illness. Unfortunately it is not possible to assess an individual case of cancer because it involves a multitude of factors that must be considered. If you have further questions you might call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service at 800-4CANCER (800-422-6237). To learn more about the CIS, including Live Chat help and how to send them an email message, go to

In process of diagnosis of a tumor found in my esophagus (found through endostomyFriday 9/26). What and haw do you account for bloodless surgery? For moral and medical reasons I do not accept blood transfusions. I do appreciatwe MSK is a top cancer center and this question will help me determine my treatment going forward. Thank you for your attention. John Gorman

Dear John, thanks so much for your question. We take our patients’ moral and medical concerns very seriously, and we passed your question by Dr. Jones, chief of the thoracic service. He says that his team does perform bloodless transfusions, and he would be very happy to have a consultation with you. The number is 646-497-9163.

I have copd and just been diagnosed with non-small cell cancer. I'm not qualified for surgery because I would have to be on oxygen and possibly need a trach. Also, I've been told radiation and chemo would cause scar tissue which in turn could case breathing problems requiring oxygen 24-7 and possible a trach. Is there any alternative to just choosing quality or quanity of life. Thank you.

Dear Alice, thanks so much for your question, and we absolutely understand your concerns about quality of life. Our doctors make every effort to not only make sure you get the best, most personalized treatment possible, but to minimize the aftereffects of treatment. It is difficult to generalize about the approach that’s right for you given the particulars of your medical history, so if you would like to have a consultation with one of our lung cancer doctors, please call 66-MSK-LUNG. You can read more about our approach to treatment here: Thanks again for your question, and we wish you all the best.

My brother was diagnosed few weeks ago with colon cancer and have a stomia. We're very unsatisfied with the current hospital and would like to transfer asap. Do you have a bloodless program? We cannot accept any treatment including blood. Thank you.

Agnes, we sent your question to Julio Garcia Aguilar, the head of our colorectal surgery team, and he said that most of our colorectal cancer patients have minimal blood loss during surgery and if their baseline level of blood is adequate, they do not require transfusions. If your brother would like to make an appointment at MSK, he can call 800-525-2225 or go to for more information on making an appointment. Thank you for your comment.

I had Vats surgery on 11/22/17. Diagnosis is stage 3 and in my lymph nodes. I'm 55 years old and had breast cancer in 2007. I did radiation and chemotherapy. Dr. at the hospital recommends chemo and radiation at the same time. Hopefully my insurance will be accepted at your facility in Monmouth county so I can be treated there. I don't have much time. Any guidance you can help me with will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Dear Renee, we’re sorry to hear about your diagnosis. If you would like to speak to someone about your insurance questions, you can call 646-497-9176 Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, or go to for more information.

If you have not already made an appointment, you can call 800-525-2225 to make one or go to for more information.

Thank you for your comment, and best wishes to you.