Health & Medicine

September 25, 2012

UC Davis' new cancer wing opens

Jerry Montgomery, 77, is a master observer of the state of affairs around him.

Jerry Montgomery, 77, is a master observer of the state of affairs around him.

During the 11 years Montgomery has undergone treatment at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, he's gotten pretty good at squaring off against his cancer, reading his nurses' moods, and watching the incremental progress of the center's expansion.

So Monday was something of a special day for Montgomery the patient, the nurses around him, and those who'd been planning the cancer center's new wing for more than 10 years.

It was the opening day of business for the bright and airy, spacious new 46,000-square-foot wing of the cancer center, complete with new fixtures and streamlined design.

"Everything's going perfectly well," said Montgomery, surveying his surroundings from an infusion chair where he was receiving the day's dose of chemotherapy.

"Everybody is happy. All the nurses seem to be delighted with the new equipment," said Montgomery. "If you have to be here doing what we're doing, it's a very pleasant place to be."

The "happy" part is key for Montgomery, a Davis rice dealer whose concept of fighting illness is "all 100 percent positive attitude," he said.

Montgomery was first treated for colon cancer at UC Davis in 2001. Then the cancer spread to his lungs, liver and bones.

Montgomery said he's watched the new cancer center wing being built for years from his previous treatment spot across the enclosed walkway in an older building.

Ralph de Vere White, director of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, said one impetus for building the new wing was to fulfill the vision set when UC Davis became the nation's 41st comprehensive cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute.

"We believe that this expansion will help us streamline operations, improve patient access to clinical trials and enhance collaboration among our clinical and basic research facility," de Vere White said.

One of the bonuses of the expansion is that it integrates pediatric cancer patients into the main cancer center. Previously, younger patients had to seek treatment in a separate building several blocks away.

Now, the pediatric patients have the entire first floor of the new wing dedicated to them, with 13 infusion chairs, five exam rooms and two isolation rooms for privacy.

Amanda Pinney, 15, of Carmichael, was one of the first pediatric patients to be treated with fluids on the new first floor Monday.

She was preparing for five days of chemotherapy for a cancer that causes tumors in soft tissue, called rhabdomyosarcoma. Already, Pinney had undergone 12 rounds of chemotherapy and one round of radiation for a disease that showed up as tumors in her body.

Amanda and her mother agreed that the new space was open in a way that "there's definitely a flow of energy here."

The high school sophomore at Victory Christian School in Carmichael said the facility should prove to be more efficient than the previous arrangement, with labs and pharmacy all in the same complex.

"One-stop shopping" and the ability to consolidate resources is a big reason why the $33 million new wing was built, officials said.

Jeanine Stiles, the center's chief administrative officer, said that, "Since our designation as a cancer center by the National Cancer Institute in 2002, space constraints have limited our clinical research capabilities. The expansion changes that."

Importantly, the expansion will provide added space in the infusion center for so-called Phase 1 clinical trials, in which novel therapies are tested in a small group of patients as a first step to evaluate the treatments' safety and benefit, officials said.

With the new wing, the entire cancer center, officials said, will comprise 110,000 square feet and provide care for about 10,000 pediatric and adult patients yearly.

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