Local access to quality cancer care key in successful lung cancer treatment

Lisa Peltier
Lisa Peltier

It’s been nearly five years since her cancer diagnosis, and Lisa Peltier is loving life. When she’s not working as a senior consultant in a successful health care consulting firm in Incline Village, where she lives with her husband, she’s indulging her passion for hiking.

“I’m doing great,” she said. “I feel good and am glad to be back working full-time. I thank God every single day that I’m a survivor.”

Peltier credits her good health to the state-of-the-art cancer care and expertise she received through the UC Davis Cancer Care Network. This unique partnership links community oncologists with UC Davis cancer specialists, enabling clinicians to make more informed treatment decisions and deliver higher-quality care.

A stage IV lung cancer diagnosis came as a shock to the physically fit non-smoker in early 2013, but local access to innovative cancer therapies eased her journey, she said.

“Early on, I thought about going elsewhere for care,” she said. “Some even advised me — ‘You have to go somewhere else.’ They said, ‘You can’t get good care locally.’ But another friend, a nurse, said, ‘There’s a lot to be said about getting your care locally. Part of the healing process is being at home. Your family is there.’"

Peltier was treated at the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center in Truckee, part of the Cancer Care Network, and was connected to a multidisciplinary army of experts and resources in her own community.

Laurence Heifetz, the Tahoe Forest Cancer Center’s medical director and Peltier’s oncologist, brought her case to the weekly virtual tumor board, which included UC Davis specialists linked by teleconferencing technology with Tahoe Forest and physicians at three other hospital-based community cancer centers.

“Our intention was to do tri-modality therapy — she would receive chemotherapy and radiation up front in an effort to control the disease,” explained UC Davis thoracic surgeon Elizabeth David, who was at the tumor board meeting where Lisa’s case was discussed. “After that, if her disease hadn’t progressed, we would go on to surgery for local control of the tumor.”

Peltier, who was 61 at the time, spent most of the summer undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments in Truckee, close to home, her family and her job. Unfortunately, the tumor in her lung had metastasized and spread to her bones. With surgery no longer an option, her doctor ordered more chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Through the cancer centers at UC Davis and Tahoe Forest, Peltier participated in two clinical trials. First, she took Zometa, a bone-strengthening drug for patients with metastatic disease designed to preserve bone and diminish disease progression. She was also put on Tarceva, a drug that targets a certain genetic mutation for which her tumor tested positive.

Without the Cancer Care Network affiliation, said Heifetz, his patients would not have access to these or most other trials.

Peltier responded well to the therapy. By December 2014, PET scans showed no evidence of cancer, making her a candidate for surgery. In February 2015, Dr. David surgically removed the upper portion of Peltier’s left lung, and she has been cancer-free ever since.

She continues to take daily cancer medication, and with regular PET scans she is enjoying each day and feeling grateful. Peltier especially enjoys an annual hike at Squaw Valley with her family and friends nicknamed “Lisa’s Army.” Her daughter organized the hike when Peltier was diagnosed with cancer, and it has become a tradition.

Peltier is also dedicated to helping other lung cancer patients by sharing her story and focusing on what they can do to fight the disease.

“It’s very gratifying for me to help other patients who are going through the same thing that I went through,” she said. “If other people can read my story and gain something, it makes it all worthwhile.”