Orange, Calif., June 1, 2021 — With its current gift, longtime UCI Health benefactor the Chao family has committed $50 million since 1995 to UCI Health toward advancing cancer care in Orange County and beyond. The family’s latest gift will name the cancer center at the new UCI Medical Center in Irvine, expanding access to leading-edge cancer treatments and therapies, promising clinical trials, and world-class cancer care driven by the latest in precision medicine.
“Few families have been as generous in support of their fellow residents of Orange County as the Chao family,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “This latest extraordinary gift is testament to their belief in the power of academic medicine to lead the fight against cancer and to provide the best and most up-to-date care to cancer patients.”
The Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ambulatory Care will be one of three medical facilities at the new $1.2 billion medical center adjacent to the UCI campus; the others are a 144-bed acute care hospital with an emergency department and the Center for Advanced Care. The cancer care center is strategically located at the new medical center campus in Irvine to allow patients to receive multidisciplinary care by interprofessional and integrative teams working together to apply the latest innovations from university-backed clinical research.
“The Chao family’s commitment to UCI and the fight against cancer has brought much-needed hope to patients and their families over the past 25 years,” said Steve A.N. Goldstein, M.A., M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, UCI vice chancellor for health affairs. “Their most recent gift extends the opportunity for cancer patients to receive lifesaving therapies and empowers the world’s top cancer clinician-scientists to advance cancer treatment through personalized healthcare. This is only possible at an academic health center committed to developing and applying advanced AI, machine-learning, genomics and therapeutics to clinical practice.”
“More than anyone else, the Chao family’s generosity and dedication has changed the face of cancer care and research in Orange County,” said Richard Van Etten, M.D., Ph.D., director of UCI’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in Orange, the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center based in Orange County. “The Chao family’s investment allows UCI Health to treat the most complex cancers, and patients benefit from the power of the University of California Cancer Consortium.”
Since their first gift to the university in 1995, three generations of Chaos have supported the growth of UCI’s cancer program, including expanded clinical care and advanced research facilities and the creation last year of Orange County’s only adult hematopoietic stem cell/bone marrow transplant program. Today, UCI’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in Orange is one of only 51 NCI-designated centers across the U.S. – those that meet the highest standards for an institution’s commitment to and excellence in cancer research and clinical care.
“Doing good in our community has always been very important to our family,” said Allen Chao. “We are proud to continue our partnership with UCI and to know that community members from all walks of life benefit from the lifesaving treatments offered here.”
“It’s a value passed down to us from our matriarch and patriarch, Hsu Hwa Chao and Hsi Hsiung Chao,” he said.
In 1999, Allen Chao developed stomach cancer. He sought the care of UCI Health gastroenterologist Dr. Kenneth Chang, who helped to remove all signs of the disease. Chang, head of gastrointestinal oncology, also directs UCI’s Chao Family Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center (CDDC), supported by the Chao family as part of its vision to expand access to cancer care.
The CDDC is a multidisciplinary center where gastroenterologists, hepatologists, oncologists, surgeons and other specialists work in concert to provide the best care for the most complex digestive diseases, including cancer of the colon, liver, stomach, esophagus and pancreas. Under Chang’s leadership and with the support of the Chao family, the CDDC has become a leader in innovation and clinical care, advancing research and clinical trials on the development of treatments for digestive cancers. Chang has pioneered the development of endoscopic ultrasound guided fine-needle aspiration and injection, techniques that have revolutionized the intervention and treatment of many gastrointestinal diseases and cancers.
“The Chao family has expanded access to the most innovative treatments for those with cancer and those with gastrointestinal diseases, which are also highly prevalent among the Asian population,” Chang said.
The Chao family’s commitment is a key to extending access to UCI Health cancer care and clinical trials to residents across the region. The new cancer center and hospital are slated to begin construction later this year and open in late 2023 and 2025, respectively, according to UCI Health CEO Chad Lefteris.
“We encourage others to do good in their community in whatever way they can,” Chao said. “Philanthropy can take many forms and is not limited to financial support.”
“I commend the Chao family for their naming gift to the Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ambulatory Care facility at the UCI Medical Center in Irvine, and we are grateful for UCI’s continued partnership and contributions to maintaining the wellbeing of Irvine,” said Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan. “This new facility will provide the world-class cancer research and care that befits the unsurpassed quality of life for Irvine residents by providing additional healthcare options and new jobs for the community.”
Orange County’s landmark cancer center
Established in 1989 as Orange County’s first cancer center, the UCI facility in Orange achieved its initial National Cancer Institute cancer center designation in 1994 and comprehensive designation in 1997. The family’s landmark 1995 gift catalyzed the university’s efforts to earn this status.
The significance for Orange County was profound. A region with a population greater than that of 20 states now had an institution where people with advanced-stage or treatment-resistant diseases could receive world-class cancer care advanced by basic and translational research, including access to early-phase clinical trials involving the very latest therapies.
“A strong research base, in particular, helps drive progress,” Van Etten said. “It is our mission to translate the findings of basic research into treatments that can benefit patients. Institutions lacking their own research base can follow and adopt advances developed elsewhere, but they cannot lead in the same way comprehensive cancer centers that integrate research with clinical care can.”
The current gift furthers UCI efforts to expand cancer prevention and screening, address disparities and provide equitable access to specialty cancer care. For example, enrollment in potentially lifesaving clinical trials increased by more than 260 percent between 2015 and 2020.
“UCI’s advancements in cancer care are made possible thanks to the Chao family’s friendship and support, and we are excited to be able to offer this level of care across Orange County,” Lefteris said. “In just the last five years, the UCI Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in Orange and our community locations across Orange County have seen more than 400,000 patient visits.”
David Liu is one of the people whose lives were saved by UCI Health cancer specialists supported by the Chao family. Diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer a decade ago at a community hospital, the Orange County resident turned to the region’s only academic health system for treatment.
“This is a wonderful organization, and I was treated by many excellent doctors, nurses and other staff,” said Liu, an engineer and part-time musician whose band supports fundraisers for several community groups. “It really touches me that the Chao family has committed to a vision of a cancer center available for everybody.”
About the UCI Health: UCI Health is the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at primary and specialty care offices across Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center in Orange, Calif. The 418-bed acute-care hospital, listed among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 20 consecutive years, provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, as well as behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. It is the primary teaching hospital for the UCI School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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