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City of Hope Gets $100M From Panda Express CEOs

City of Hope has two big reasons to celebrate this month—a milestone to completing its forthcoming specialty cancer hospital in Irvine, and a $100 million donation.

The cancer treatment and research center on Sept. 12 announced the donation from Andrew and Peggy Cherng, co-founders and co-CEOs of the Rosemead-based restaurant chain Panda Express.

City of Hope, which has a main campus in Duarte in addition to its rapidly growing Irvine base, says the donation will create a first-of-its-kind oncology program that brings together Eastern and Western medicines.

“Panda’s values and our family’s values are about taking the best of Eastern heritage and Western upbringing to benefit the people around us,” Peggy Cherng said in a statement.

“This gift focuses on what is possible when Western medicine’s ability to cure the disease is combined with Eastern medicine’s role in restoring the body to holistically heal cancer patients.”

Hospital Helpers

The gift is the latest major donation to a local medical entity from Asian Americans who have found success in Southern California.

David and Diana Sun last year donated $50 million to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian for a new six-building campus in Irvine. David Sun, who immigrated from Taiwan, is the co-founder of Fountain Valley’s Kingston Technology, the second biggest private company in Orange County, generating more than $16 billion in sales in 2022.

In July, Hoag said the new campus in Irvine would be called the Sun Family Campus.

University of California, Irvine’s new campus in Irvine last year received a $20 million donation from Newport Coast resident Joe Wen, founder of conglomerate Formosa Ltd., and his family for a new center for advanced care, and the year prior the school received a $30 million gift from Adeline Yen Mah’s Falling Leaves Foundation for a new research and education facility on its main campus.

The Cherngs, who opened their first restaurant in 1973 in Pasadena, have built Panda Express into the largest Chinese restaurant chain in the U.S. with 2,200 doors, 40,000 employees and more than $3 billion in annual sales.

The couple, who have a secondary home at the oceanfront Strand at Headlands neighborhood in Dana Point, ranked No. 15 on the Business Journal’s July annual wealthiest list with an estimated worth about $3.3 billion.

“As immigrants, we recognize the privilege we’ve been afforded from our communities and want to give back and provide opportunities to those we serve,” Cherng said. “Giving reflects our family’s personal values of care, compassion, stewardship and service.”

Topping Off

City of Hope on Sept. 6 held a “topping off” ceremony to celebrate the last steel beam installed at its forthcoming hospital in Irvine.

“I got emotional, just thinking about the last five years” since planning began, City of Hope Orange County President Annette Walker told the Business Journal after the ceremony.

“I want Orange County to know how grateful we are for the reception we’ve received.”

City of Hope, which was founded in 1913, has grown into one of the largest cancer research and treatment organizations in the U.S. and one of the leading research centers for diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses.

It is in the process of spending about $1.5 billion to construct new facilities in Orange County.

Last year, it opened its 190,000-square-­foot Lennar Foundation Cancer Center in Irvine.

Next door, its 165,000-square-foot hospital is scheduled to open in late 2025.

“Right now, we’re on time,” Walker said. “If we have rain like the past year, the timeline could be threatened.”

East Meets West

The new director at City of Hope’s Cherng Family Center for Integrative Oncology is Dr. Richard Lee, who works out of Orange County.

Lee, who pursued a residency in internal medicine at Stanford University, was a Fulbright Scholar at Taiwan’s China Medical University, where he learned traditional medicine with a focus on acupuncture.

City of Hope is planning to offer acupuncture at its facilities and is hiring trained acupuncturists.

“We want to tell the patient having pain to think about acupuncture,” Lee told the Business Journal. “In many medical facilities, this option isn’t available. We want to tell patients that they don’t have to go elsewhere. We’re going to make this a standard of care.”

An estimated 40% of cancer patients use integrative therapies to address cancer and related issues, such as pain management and nausea. Some studies have shown integrative therapies can support better health, improved quality of life and optimal clinical outcomes.

“However, few healthcare organizations—let alone cancer centers—provide access to integrative therapies under physician supervision, much less use them holistically in treatment for patients with cancer,” City of Hope said when announcing the gift.

Clinical Trials

The field of oncology needs in-depth rigorous clinical trials on the potential benefits of acupuncture and other such therapies, said Dr. Edward Kim, vice physician-in-chief, City of Hope National Medical Center.

“That type of rigor hasn’t been done as well in the field of oncology,” Kim said. “We will not stop until this is something standard for any patient with cancer.

“We want to create it so the data, the research, justify its importance.”

Besides acupuncture, other areas that have shown promise of alleviating pain and insomnia in cancer patients include meditation and yoga.

Lee is studying extracts such as from white button mushrooms, which have been shown to have immunology effects.

“Lot of therapies are derived from different areas—sometimes from the lab, sometimes from nature,” Kim said, nothing that some medications have originated from tree barks.

“If the trials are positive and conducted in a rigorous manner, it will make it to the standard guideline. We feel that’s where it will have the greatest impact.”

Studying and researching complementary and alternative medicine practices, such as acupuncture, yoga, and meditation, is one of the core focuses of UCI’s new Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, which is part of that school’s Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health Science.

No Buildings

The Cherng family’s donation won’t go toward a building, and rather will be used in a wide variety of areas.

Besides accelerating clinical trials, it will be used for training programs to make sure all the doctors and nurses are aware of potential benefits of Eastern medicine like acupuncture and tai chi. It’s planning oncology fellowships created and led by oncologists.

“If I could clone Dr. Lee, I’d do that,” Kim said.

They plan to hold an international oncology conference next year in Irvine, said Lee, who is chair of the event that will attract an estimated 400 to 500 attendees.

The doctors hope to duplicate their work at other City of Hope facilities.

The $100 million donation is “transformative” that creates the first of its kind oncology program in the nation, Kim said.

“There’s a strong belief by us, including the Cherng family, that in order to deliver the best care combining Eastern and Western medicine will lead to the best outcomes,” Kim said.

“The family resonated with what we’re going. It is an exciting time for the City of
Hope.”

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