Spinal cord cancer survivor's gift supports cancer research
September 15, 2014
When Newport Beach resident Sue Stern
was diagnosed with a rare spinal cord tumor
in 2008, she and her husband Ralph sought out the
finest neurosurgeons in the region for treatment options.
Their search ended when they met Dr. Mark Linskey and
the UCI Health cancer team.
Linskey successfully removed her tumor during a
delicate, seven-hour surgery in which the slightest
mistake could have left her paralyzed. Thanks to his
extraordinary skill, Sue Stern, then 61, recovered completely.
“Dr. Linskey and the whole
team did a phenomenal job,”
says Ralph Stern, 70, a retired
entrepreneur. “We wanted to
And give back they did. The couple recently donated
$5 million to create the Sue and Ralph Stern Center
for Cancer Clinical Trials and Research at the UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The Sterns’ donation increases the ability of UC Irvine
Health cancer specialists to sponsor clinical trials,
which test the safety and effectiveness of potential
new therapies on patient volunteers. For people with
advanced-stage or treatment-resistant cancer, these
studies can literally be a lifesaver.
“With some new cancer drugs, participating in a clinical
trial is the only way to access the treatment,” says Dr. Richard Van Etten, the cancer center’s director. Clinical
trials also benefit the larger community by providing new
knowledge about cancer.
The Sterns’ generous donation also assisted
in recruiting Van Etten. “We’re excited that our
gift helped attract a world-class director for the cancer
center in Dr. Rick Van Etten,” says Ralph Stern. “The gift
provides additional resources for the center to have a
significant impact on cancer research and treatment.”
As Orange County’s sole university-based hospital,
UCI Health has the only National Cancer Institute-designated
comprehensive cancer center in the region
and is in a unique position to lead the way in research.
The Sterns have a special relationship with UC Irvine,
having supported the humanities and other areas
across the campus for the past 17 years. And since Sue Stern’s
remarkable cancer treatment and recovery, they’ve also
donated more than $600,000 to Linskey for his research
on malignant spinal cord tumors and to Dr. Daniela Bota,
a neuro-oncologist, to support her brain tumor research.
“Clinical trials are the source of new cancer treatments,”
Ralph Stern notes. “It’s important for cancer patients
to have these capabilities close to home, and we’re very
grateful to be able to support that.”
For information about giving to the UCI Health cancer center, please call 714-456-6178.