Orange, Calif., June 26, 2017 — The UC Irvine Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center will honor renowned leukemia researchers Richard Van Etten, M.D., Ph.D., and Susan O’Brien, M.D., with endowed chairs made possible by a $5 million gift from Chao family siblings Allen Chao, Agnes Kung, Phylis Hsia and Richard Chao and their spouses. The generous donation also provides for pioneering investigations into blood cancers and cancers with hereditary links.
“An endowed chair is among the highest academic honors a faculty member can receive,” said Dr. Howard Federoff, vice chancellor of UC Irvine Health Affairs. “In the medical arena, the endowment can have global impact by providing time and resources for clinical research and trials. We are indeed grateful to the Chao family for their gift enabling this recognition of two very talented physicians whose work could very well lead to major breakthroughs in cancer care.”
Van Etten, director of the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, will be awarded the Chao Family Endowed Director’s Chair in Cancer Research & Treatment. He is recognized internationally for groundbreaking research on chronic myeloid leukemia that spurred the development of drugs targeting an abnormal protein to address this disease. Previously, a bone marrow transplant had been patients’ main recourse.
As the cancer center’s associate director for clinical science and medical director of the Sue & Ralph Stern Center for Cancer Clinical Trials & Research, O’Brien oversees and coordinates clinical cancer research across UC Irvine Health. She will be named to the Chao Family Endowed Chair for Cancer Clinical Science. Her extensive expertise in clinical cancer research includes leadership roles in clinical trials that introduced many new treatments for chronic and acute lymphoid leukemia.
Research funded by the chairs will focus initially on supporting infrastructure for a new UC Irvine Health program in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation as a therapy for blood cancers such as leukemia, multiple myeloma and lymphoma. The program would provide Orange County residents convenient access to this critical treatment method and open the door to clinical studies designed to improve the HSCT process and outcomes.
In future years, the Chao family’s gift will facilitate a closer look at genetic links to cancer – funding research into when and how mutations can lead to disease, as well as ways to identify and address potential conditions before symptoms appear. About 5 to 10 percent of all cancers result directly from inherited gene defects, or mutations, according to the American Cancer Society.
“From our father, who owned a pharmaceutical company, to the children in our family who chose health-related careers, three generations of the Chao family have been involved in keeping people healthy,” said Allen Chao, CEO of Tanvex BioPharma. “It is important to our family to give back to the community. We are pleased to partner with UC Irvine Health to move important cancer research forward and to give residents local access to nationally recognized physicians and potentially lifesaving treatments.”
The Chao family has changed what it means to be diagnosed with cancer through strategic gifts totaling more than $29.5 million. They funded completion of laboratory space for groundbreaking cancer research and supported renovations to the H.H. Chao Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center that facilitated its multidisciplinary approach to individualized care.
In the mid-1990s, the Chaos made philanthropic investments that set the stage for what the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is today: one of just 48 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States and the only one in Orange County. It’s also the sole local institution where people with advanced-stage or treatment-resistant diseases can participate in early-phase clinical trials involving the very latest therapies. The center was named in the family’s honor.
UC Irvine Health: UC Irvine Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UC Irvine Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 411-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, and behavioral health and rehabilitation services. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 16 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and it’s the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine’s School of Medicine. UC Irvine Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County.
University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.