The magazine of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

Spring/Summer 2015

Holding hands

Taking life’s work a step further

Lung cancer specialist plans large gift

David Gandara has devoted nearly his entire professional career to revolutionizing the treatment of lung cancer.

He will continue that contribution to lung cancer treatment long after his career ends, with the help of a trust he and his wife, Diane Gandara, have established for thoracic cancer research.

“My wife, Diane, and I decided to make this bequest to UC Davis because we believe in the work the cancer center is doing, and we want to make our own contribution to this effort,” the professor and physician explains.

“When we pass, we want a significant amount of our trust to go to this research effort,” says Diane, adding that she and her husband established the trust “as a way to give back to UC Davis.”

It’s not as though David Gandara hasn’t already given significantly to the cancer research community. For more than 20 years, he has been director of Thoracic Oncology at what is now the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. For the bulk of that time he has served as associate director of clinical research. Gandara has witnessed and contributed significantly to the growth of the cancer center and its subsequent designation as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.

Gandara says he is immensely proud of the stature that the cancer center has attained. And the research currently going on at UC Davis is “extremely exciting,” he adds.

“The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is still relatively young, but already it has advanced at a faster pace than any other cancer center in the history of the National Cancer Institute in terms of reaching a designation of comprehensive status, which is very prestigious and a small club of the best cancer centers in the country,” explains Gandara. “But we have done so on a very limited budget by comparison with other centers.”

The Gandaras’ trust — the amount of which they prefer not to disclose — is to be designated as a current-use fund for the Thoracic Oncology program. Such a designation allows a considerable portion of the funds to be used on an ongoing basis. Ongoing access is critical because Gandara and his colleagues are now at the forefront of genetically targeted drug therapies for lung cancer, which are garnering international attention.

“This is an extremely exciting time because of the recent discoveries in cancer molecular profiling. We now have distinguished a large number of genetically-defined subsets of lung cancer, many of which are actionable by new therapies and for which we now have predictive biomarkers,” explains Gandara.

“So that’s also important in terms of this gift, because in the future we will have even more to offer our patients. UC Davis can be a leader in this effort, but only if we have the expertise and the financial resources at our disposal to unravel the biologic complexities of this disease,” he adds.

Diane Gandara says she hopes the gift will inspire others to make similar donations, especially for lung cancer research, a disease she says often is not as frequently singled out for private donations.

Gandara views the bequest as both a way to show his loyalty to the Thoracic Oncology program and to continue his legacy.

“I hope that this bequest Diane and I are making will result in important advances and allow the program to do what it needs to do to continue its success,” he says. “Whether it is purchasing new equipment, hiring new people, or sustaining research laboratories — things that will allow UC Davis to continue to be one of the top thoracic oncology programs in the country.”