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UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

John Dorton — “A perfect example of why this is so important”

John Dorton

After 84 years, the twinkle in John Dorton’s eye hasn’t faded. He lives each day with a sense of adventure, curiosity and hope for more to come.

Dorton, who lives in Lockford, a place he likes to call “a nice little cowboy town” in San Joaquin County, has tackled his lung cancer diagnosis with the same spirit.

Dorton had been living in Arizona when he developed a cough that wasn’t going away. His wife had died two years earlier from lung cancer, so he wasn’t taking any chances. Doctors there detected and monitored suspicious lesions on his lung. When a biopsy eventually yielded a cancer diagnosis, he chose to move back to California, where his son lives, for treatment.

He chose UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center because “the doctors there saved my granddaughter’s life. I knew they were reliable and I trusted them.”

Dorton was not a candidate for surgery, but Dr. Megan Daly, his radiation oncologist, said he was an excellent choice for a clinical trial designed for patients with early-stage, non-small-cell lung cancer. Because Dorton's lung tumor was located in the central chest area, Daly said standard doses of stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) might be too toxic. She opted for a different approach, in which he received additional SBRT treatments in escalating doses.

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"I have accomplished a few things in my life, but I figured that if I participate in a clinical trial and it helps someone else and it’s successful, I’ll feel like maybe I was a little part of it."

John Dorton, Lockford, Calif.
Lung cancer clinical trial participant

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"Mr. Dorton has had an excellent treatment response and has not experienced any significant side effects,” Daly said. “He's a perfect example of why this trial is so important. Other types of radiation for early stage lung cancers are not terribly effective, while SBRT has high cure rates.  It's imperative that we understand how we can safely deliver SBRT for patients like him without major side effects." 

Dorton liked that radiation treatment did not require any hospitalization, so he could quickly get back to the business of life. “I still feel good – for an old fellow,” he said.

A retired operating engineer, Dorton has lived, worked or traveled through every state in the U.S. except Alaska. He’s been on barges in the ocean, worked on dams, operated giant cranes and installed tons of pipe, including off the San Francisco coast. These days, he’s preparing to get back on the road to crisscross the country again with his new, 28-foot fifth-wheel trailer.

A man who likes to say “Every day is Sunday,” Dorton says he was happy to participate in the clinical trial for the benefit of cancer patients who come after him.

“I have accomplished a few things in my life,” he says, “but I figured if I do this and hit helps someone else, and it’s successful, I’ll feel like maybe I was a little part of it.”