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UCI Health renewed as Orange County’s only federally designated comprehensive cancer center

April 18, 2022
The UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center receives renewal of its National Cancer Institute designation as a "comprehensive" center, one of only 52 in the U.S.

“Our mission is to translate the findings of our research into treatments that can benefit patients, driven by a strong commitment to scientific discovery and clinical innovation,” said Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Richard A. Van Etten, MD, PhD.

Orange, Calif. — The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has again recognized the UCI Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center as one of the nation’s top cancer centers, renewing its “comprehensive” designation. The UCI Health cancer center is among 53 NCI-designated U.S. comprehensive cancer centers and the only one based in Orange County where people with advanced-stage or treatment-resistant disease can access early-phase clinical trials of the very latest therapies.

“The Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is an outstanding asset for the more than three million residents of Orange County and patients far beyond,” said Steve A.N. Goldstein, MD, PhD, vice chancellor, UCI Health Affairs. “We are honored that the NCI has recognized our program’s excellence in cancer care, basic and translational research, clinical trials, education, training, and community engagement, placing it among the few identified as the very best in the nation.”

The peer-review process of NCI designation is among the most rigorous in the nation, requiring evidence for collaboration and leadership as well as demonstration of high-quality programs. An NCI designation means patients have access to leading-edge treatments, personalized therapies and clinical trials. UCI Health cancer physicians are specialists in their respective cancer fields who collaborate with researchers to develop new approaches to detecting, preventing and treating cancer for all populations.

“Our mission is to translate the findings of our research into treatments that can benefit patients, driven by a strong commitment to scientific discovery and clinical innovation,” said cancer center Director Richard A. Van Etten, MD, PhD. “Institutions lacking their own research base can follow and adopt advances developed at NCI centers like ours, but they cannot lead in the same way as comprehensive cancer centers that integrate research with clinical care.”

Recent initiatives include establishing Orange County’s only Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Program for adults with blood-based malignancies and increasing early detection rates for cancer through its Advancing Cancer Care Together program, which was developed by the cancer center's Office of Community Engagement to improve cancer care for underrepresented communities in Orange County.

Since the hematopoietic stem cell program opened in 2020, more than 50 patients with advanced blood-based cancers have received a life-saving bone marrow transplant at UCI Medical Center in Orange. The program recently received accreditation from the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT), which sets the national standard for excellence in cellular therapy programs.

The region served by UCI Health and its Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center encompasses Orange County, the nation’s sixth-most populous county, southwest Los Angeles County and portions of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. This highly diverse population carries a considerable burden of cancers, which is reflected in the center center's funding of basic and translational research in breast, melanoma, colorectal and gastric cancers, among others. These ongoing programs aim to reduce the incidence and mortality of cancer in the region, particularly in underserved communities that have for too long carried a heavier cancer burden.

Cancer center growth

Established in 1989 as the UC Irvine Cancer Center, it achieved the first NCI’s comprehensive cancer center designation in 1997. Soon after, it was renamed in honor of the Chao family as the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, operating fully integrated research, prevention, diagnostic, treatment, rehabilitation and survivorship programs to treat the whole patient, not just the cancer.

In 2014, a generous donation created the Sue and Ralph Stern Center for Cancer Clinical Trials and Research, which has increased both the number and complexity of outcomes-focused clinical trials available to patients. Since then, access to the center’s early-phase clinical trials has increased more than 300%.

In recent years, the cancer center has nearly doubled the space available for laboratory research and increased by half the space for clinical research and care. A new cancer center at the UCI Medical Center – Irvine campus now under construction will more than double the space available at the flagship UCI Medical Center in Orange. The Irvine center is expected to open in late 2023. The new center will also be named for the Chao family, which has contributed more than $50 million for cancer care at UCI Health.  

UCI Health is the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine, and the only academic health system in Orange County. 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 459-bed, acute care hospital, listed among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 21 consecutive years, provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centerhigh-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn and Twitter.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. 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 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It is located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities, and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. Learn more about the university at www.uci.edu ›