Since the beginning of the current COVID-19 crisis, our UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center has kept its doors open, providing people with cancer the world-class services and care that they need. Despite the many operational challenges and personal risks, our dedicated team of physicians, providers, nurses and staff have come in every single day to ensure that our patients receive uninterrupted care.

In this issue of Synthesis, you will find inspiring stories of Northern Californians who didn’t let fear of the virus stop them from going to their doctor. Their decision to continue pursuing cancer care in the face of a pandemic has been inspiring to many and is very likely to positively influence their outcome.

You will also read about lessons learned from COVID-19 in the realm of cancer health disparities: that is, how health outcomes are shaped by conditions such as where you live, what you eat and drink, and how you make a living.

Our vulnerable communities in the rural areas of Northern California and the Central Valley have lower household income, lower health insurance rates, and less education than other areas of the state. And, they are exposed to considerable amounts of pesticides, herbicides and toxic air contaminants.

What role do environmental exposures play in our cancer rates? You’ll find out in this issue how we are confronting that critical question, while also doing what we can to stop cancer before it starts, with specific outreach to Latino, Native American and African American communities who carry most of the regional cancer burden.

Also, in this issue of Synthesis, we showcase how we are tackling the toughest of cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, which just this year took the lives of admired Americans Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Lewis and Alex Trebek. Our scientists and doctors are tirelessly developing new strategies to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer with innovative new technologies found only at UC Davis.

You will learn, too, about our focused efforts to cure kids of cancer. Dedicated donors have created a fund to support a new position to help families manage the psychosocial issues facing them when their child is diagnosed with cancer.

We are also excited about our new comparative oncology training program through which we are joining forces with the world’s No. 1 ranked UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine to try to save the lives of dogs with cancer while supporting development of new therapies for both dogs and humans.

Thank you for your continued commitment to the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. We could not continue what we are doing without your tireless support.

Thank you and stay safe!

Primo "Lucky" Lara, M.D.

Primo “Lucky” Lara, Jr., M.D.
Director, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center