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Reimagining cancer care for all of Orange County

June 27, 2024 | UCI Health
An architectural rendering of the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ambulatory Care building, viewed from the San Joaquin Marsh Reserve at dusk

On opening day, the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center & Ambulatory Care building "will instantly be the top outpatient cancer care facility on the West Coast," says Director Richard Van Etten.

When the UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center's second clinical hub opens its doors July 16, the spacious, state-of-the-art facility in Irvine will extend elite cancer care within reach of residents throughout Orange County and beyond.

As part of the $1.3 billion UCI Health — Irvine medical complex on the UC Irvine campus, the new Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ambulatory Care building will effectively triple the health system's capacity to serve cancer patients.

The flagship UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCI Medical Center in Orange is one of only 57 U.S. centers to earn the “comprehensive” rating from the prestigious National Cancer Institute. NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers must adhere to rigorous standards of excellence in care as well as for transdisciplinary, state-of-the-art research focused on developing new and better approaches to preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer.

Services at the Irvine center — also named for longtime UCI Health benefactors, the Chao family — will meet those same exacting standards for excellence while delivering patient-centered care, says Dr. Richard A. Van Etten, director of the cancer center and an associate vice chancellor with the university's Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences.

'The ultimate' in cancer care

“This will be huge for patients,” Van Etten predicts. “It will be the ultimate in state-of-the art cancer care on the West Coast. It will expand access to the latest in cancer care, clinical trials and research, and bring it all closer to people living in coastal and southern Orange County.”

In addition to shortening travel times for many county residents, the Irvine location will offer easy access, with valet service and separate entrances for patients, many of whom come for intensive daily treatments.

The new cancer hub's added capacity will ease a space crunch at the flagship center in Orange and satellite clinical locations, which now handle more than 80,000 outpatient visits and 65,000 cancer infusion treatments each year. About a third of UCI Health cancer patients come from Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

In fact, UCI Health already provides care to more cancer patients and offers more clinical trials than any other healthcare provider in the region. More than 500 active cancer clinical trials are currently underway and more will be added once the Irvine location opens.

State of the art

By design, the Irvine center integrates research and prevention with the most advanced diagnostics, treatments and rehabilitation programs to deliver patient-centered care.

The five-story, 225,000-square foot facility offers the latest in radiation oncology therapies and the most advanced imaging services, all under one roof. It also has eight outpatient surgical suites, 52 private exam rooms, an expansive infusion center and a state-of-the art women’s breast health center.

With an increasing number of patients needing chemotherapy, new immunotherapies and cellular treatments, UCI Health planners devoted special attention to the infusion services floor, with 42 spacious bays designed for privacy, comfort and to promote healing. Many of them have views of the serene San Joaquin Marsh Reserve, as does the adjacent terrace, which offers a quiet, soothing atmosphere for patients and their loved ones.

The infusion floor also has its own specialized pharmacy to ensure the convenient, safe and efficient administration of therapies.

Patients and their families also can enjoy a respite in the center's cafe, which is infused with natural light from its floor-to-ceiling windows. A wellness center on the plaza level offers access to supportive services for patients' needs and six meeting rooms are available for patient education and conferences. There also is a convenient retail pharmacy open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

'One-stop shop'

Also essential to the center’s design is that it serves as what Van Etten calls a “one-stop shop” for cancer care, giving patients immediate access to a multidisciplinary team of experts in their specific disease, as well as all the diagnostic and associated services they need, ideally coordinated in a single visit.

In addition, the adjacent Joe C. Wen & Family Center for Advanced Care, which opened in April, has specialists in gastroenterology, cardiology, neurology, kidney disease, pulmonary medicine, infectious diseases and many other disciplines that may be needed for a cancer patient's continuity of care.

“Cancer patients can develop problems affecting nearly every organ system,” Van Etten explains. “Here at UCI Health — Irvine, we are uniquely positioned to treat the whole person.”

Another striking feature of the new building is that the ambulatory surgical suites and procedure spaces were planned and constructed in tandem with the medical campus’ new 144-bed acute care hospital. An entire floor devoted to surgical operations will connect the two buildings to promote seamless coordination between the ambulatory outpatient suites and the hospital, which is scheduled to open in 2025.

Meeting the demand

The Irvine center is expected to help address the region's growing demand for cancer services. Van Etten says he is in the process of recruiting at least 30 new cancer specialists to fulfill the cancer center’s mission to provide the most advanced care for all types of cancers.

“Cancer isn’t one disease; it’s about 150 different ones, and each is completely different in terms of its causes, detection and treatment,” he says. “We have true experts in all types of cancer, which allows us to be absolutely the most up to date on the latest research and technologies.”

The new facility’s proximity to the university campus will make it easier for clinicians to join forces with basic scientists, fostering innovation and breakthrough discoveries. Already, many of the cancer center’s researchers have made landmark advances that have improved the standard of care for some types of cancer.

Game-changing research

More leading-edge research is underway. For example, neuroscientist Michael Demetriou, MD, PhD, is working with the National Cancer Institute on a cancer-specific antigen that spares healthy cells.

“This has the potential to be a game-changer because it targets only cancer cells and it may allow therapies now successful against blood cancers to be used against solid tumors for the first time,” Van Etten says.

Another university scientist, physicist Christopher Barty, is working with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a machine capable of producing X-ray images 100 times better than is currently possible while exposing patients to a fraction of the radiation. This breakthrough could revolutionize how cancers are detected, says Van Etten, who hopes to make use of the technology for research in the near future.

“It has the potential to change how we diagnose cancer, particularly where we now lack effective screening methods, such as for pancreatic and ovarian cancers.”

The 'big kahuna'

At a meeting of the cancer center's Director's Council in May, Van Etten outlined recent research achievements and initiatives. He also highlighted the growing footprint of cancer services throughout Orange County, including satellite locations in Costa Mesa, Yorba Linda, Newport Beach and Laguna Hills, and a new radiation oncology facility in Fountain Valley.

"But the big kahuna, if you will, is our new cancer center with over 200,000 square feet at the new medical complex in Irvine," he told the audience of longtime supporters. "It's going to be absolutely amazing. It will instantly be the top outpatient cancer care facility on the West Coast."

He invited the enthusiastic group to attend a celebration in July to mark the grand opening of both the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center & Ambulatory Care building and the Joe C. Wen & Family Center for Advanced Care.

The community open house will be held Saturday, July 20 from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at UCI Health — Irvine, 19200 Jamboree Road, Irvine, CA 92612. The event, which is open to the public, will feature a health fair, entertainment and tours of the new buildings. No RSVP is required.

Learn more about the grand opening event ›

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