Chao family fights cancer with $5 million gift to UC Irvine Health

Noted leukemia researchers to receive endowed chairs established by donation

The Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of just 48 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States and the only one in Orange County. UC Irvine Health

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. Read more.

Silent partners to improve Orange County healthcare

Chao family support has built UC Irvine Health’s Comprehensive Cancer Center into a community resource … and so much more

Since 1995, the four Chao siblings and their spouses – along with their father and adult children – have donated almost $30 million to UCI, quietly transforming cancer research and care in the region. Shown are (front row, from left) June Chao, Agnes Kung, Lee Chao and Phylis Hsia and (back, from left) Richard Chao, J.K. Kung, Allen Chao and David Hsia.

Their name may be on a UCI building, but members of the Chao family prefer working behind the scenes to improve the health of the community.

Since their first gift to the university in 1995, three generations of Chaos have given nearly $30 million to the campus, quietly reshaping cancer research and care in Orange County and beyond.

Recently, the second-eldest of the four Chao siblings, Allen Chao, agreed to discuss the story behind the family’s philanthropy, but only because doing so might raise awareness of UC Irvine Health’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center as a community resource. Read more.