The first clinical trial is now available at Marshall Cancer Center in Cameron Park, which joined the UC Davis Cancer Care Network in early 2022. The trial tests a new approach for monitoring breast cancer during treatment using blood tests called serum tumor marker (STM) tests. STM measures the amount of tumor markers that cancer and other cells release into the blood. This information can show doctors if the cancer is responding to treatment.

Researchers are comparing this approach to traditional monitoring using imaging scans, which can be expensive and make many patients anxious. Using blood tests instead of scans might improve the quality of life for some patients and lower costs. The clinical trial is enrolling women with metastatic hormone receptor positive Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-2 (HER-2) negative breast cancer.

Under the UC Davis Cancer Care Network affiliation, Marshall’s oncologists work directly with UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center’s oncology team to design leading-edge diagnostic and treatment plans. This enables Marshall’s patients to access the latest cancer clinical trials — which typically are available only through large academic research centers.

Joanne’s story

One of the first women to participate in the clinical trial was thrilled to gain access to a clinical trial close to home. Joanne, a great grandmother who asked to be identified in this article by only her first name, was first diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in 2013 while living in Santa Cruz. She opted for a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery and had to drive four hours round trip for each of her treatments at a Bay Area comprehensive cancer center. After Joanne recovered, she moved to the Sierra Nevada foothills to be closer to her family members.

“When I had my first journey with cancer, it would take two hours to drive to my appointments and two hours back,” Joanne said.

In February 2023, just two months after celebrating her 45th anniversary with husband Larry, her high school sweetheart, Joanne learned that she had metastatic cancer in her liver. Larry, who owns three medical clinics and was by Joanne’s side every step of the way during her original cancer journey, quickly began his research. He focused on the nearby Marshall Cancer Center, which he found out was a UC Davis Health affiliate.

Joanne began treatment immediately at the Marshall Cancer Center.

“Now, we’re just 10 minutes from Marshall’s Cancer Center. It is much less stressful not to spend the time on the freeway and it eliminates the hours in the car anticipating treatment and the mental stress of wondering ‘what’s next?,’” Joanne said.

Following her third round of chemotherapy, when her doctor was hoping to see a 10–12% reduction in cancer markers, Joanne received the extraordinary news that they had dropped by more than 53%.

Today, Joanne is receiving periodic hormonal therapy and is on a positive path, grateful to receive world-class care in the foothills.

“The care has been excellent,” Larry added. “The people, the facility, the work that they do — they make you feel like a person, not a ‘cancer patient’. The more we learn through the trials, hopefully there will be fewer people that have to go through these journeys.”

Learn more about the Marshall Cancer Center, a UC Davis Health Affiliate. Call 530-676-6600 or visit more details.

For more information on UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center clinical trials, Call 916-734-0565 or visit more details.