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Building on basics

Molecular medicine

At UC Davis Cancer Center, more than 150 adult and 100 pediatric clinical trials are under way at any given time. A community hospital, in contrast, typically offers only a dozen. Even before achieving NCI designation, UC Davis Cancer Center ranked first among nearly 300 members of the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG), one of the world’s largest adult clinical trials organizations, in the number of patients enrolled in new drug studies. With NCI designation, the cancer center will have even more opportunities to offer clinical trials that give patients early access to potentially smarter, more powerful therapies.

“An NCI-designated cancer center is a tremendous resource for our region,” said Primo Lara, assistant professor of hematology/oncology. “If we did not exist, people in our area would not have access to these investigational drugs.”

Gilson’s story is a case in point. UC Davis Cancer Center was one of just three centers in Northern California — and the only one this side of San Francisco — participating in a clinical trial of Iressa in October 2000, when the Gilsons were preparing for their last Thanksgiving together. Although the trial was designed to assess the drug’s effectiveness against a different form of lung cancer, Gandara had reason to believe Iressa might also work in bronchoalveolar carcinoma, or BAC, the cancer that was killing Gilson. Through the scientific grapevine, Gandara had heard reports of two BAC patients elsewhere in the country who improved on the investigational drug.


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