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Monday, May 23, 2022

City of Hope’s New Cancer Outpatient Center Nears Opening

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City of Hope Orange County has one of the busier agendas of any local business, healthcare or otherwise, on tap for 2022.

The cancer-focused institute is aiming to unveil its state-of-the-art outpatient center for cancer research in Irvine this year, and it’s in the early innings of a hiring push that will bring hundreds of medical jobs to the area.

The under-construction 190,000-square foot Lennar Foundation Cancer Center, on track to open later this year, will serve as City of Hope Orange County’s primary building for research and clinical trials, officials said.

“We’re hitting our plan, we’re on time and we intend to serve this community incredibly,” Annette Walker, City of Hope Orange County’s president, said while giving the Business Journal a recent tour of the center.

Along with the Lennar-backed medical office facility, City of Hope is in the early stages of building a nearby 170,000-square-foot cancer hospital, the first of its type in Orange County. That stand-alone facility is expected to open in 2025.

$200M Upsized to $1B

City of Hope, which bought the office building and land for the campus from frequent partner FivePoint Holdings LLC (NYSE: FPH), says it will be spending up to $1 billion on the campus, which spans 11 acres of the Great Park Neighborhoods near the intersection of the 5 and 405 freeways.

It paid $108 million for the office and land last year, and in doing so greatly upsized its plans for the area; it previously planned to spend $200 million for a 73,000-square-foot cancer center.

With its investment in the area up five-fold, a much bigger employee base is on tap.

Walker said City of Hope is “aggressively” hiring: 400 cancer specialists and 800 scientists and researchers are being expected to be part of the team once the ground-up hospital is built and running in a few years. It has also added five supporting offices in Orange County since January 2020.

A few months ago, it expanded its operations into a full floor of office space previously used by Lennar at an adjacent building to the cancer center.

Active Region

The campus is part of a construction boom of medical facilities in Orange County.

Other notable projects include UCI Health’s $1.4 billion for new construction on a hospital and clinic along Jamboree Road that’s now in the early stages of work, and the Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health on the school’s campus that is further along in construction.

Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, meanwhile, is planning to add about 500,000 square feet in the coming years to its already 2 million square feet of owned and leased space in Orange County, primarily at its Irvine hospital campus.

People Seeking Care

City of Hope Orange County will serve as the organization’s second main campus, behind its existing headquarters located northeast of Los Angeles in Duarte.

City of Hope saw a need for this campus because Orange County residents had to leave OC for cancer treatments.

“You have to go somewhere that specializes in cancer because the chance of survival is higher,” said Dr. Amirita Krishnan, a multiple myeloma expert who has spent 25 years with City of Hope.

“Patients in their 80s were driving 50 miles to get treatment. Imagine if that was your family member. You don’t want barriers accessing that innovation.”

Walker also noted that cancer in Orange County may grow 20% in the coming decade.

“When we got to Orange County and studied what the county needed, we saw that people were leaving for research and specialty care,” Walker said. “People are going to keep leaving the county if we don’t bring that level of service.”

The outpatient center last March received a $50 million donation from the Lennar Foundation, the charitable arm of real estate developer Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN). It’s the largest single philanthropic contribution to date from the Miami-based company, which has a $35 billion market cap.

“City of Hope is a leader in the treatment of and race to find a cure for cancer and it’s gratifying to know that, with this gift, we will make a positive impact by expanding access to care and advancing the research that will treat, prevent and ultimately eliminate cancer,” Lennar co-CEO Jon Jaffe said in a statement at the time of the donation.

“We hope this contribution will encourage other philanthropic leaders to support City of Hope in the fight against cancer,” said Jaffe, long the top OC exec for Lennar, who now works out of the builder’s Miami offices.

Small Town, Big Science

Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a privately held, cancer-focused research and treatment center.

“City of Hope is a different kind of organization, with very different capabilities,” Walker said. “What’s truly different about us, as opposed to any other health system, is our sole focus on cancer.”

A founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, City of Hope is ranked among the nation’s “Best Hospitals” in cancer by the U.S. News & World Report.

Officials report the organization conducts nearly 1,000 clinical trials and annually submits 50 investigational new drugs (IND) applications to the Food and Drug Administration.

“City of Hope is a special place; it’s like a small town with big science,” Krishnan added.

Due to the research City of Hope is doing, Krishnan said, it has become an “internationally known center for melanoma” and other cancer specialties.

“We looked at our data and saw our survival is better than the national average, because all we do is cancer,” she said. “Survival has tripled since I started out in the [myeloma] field and I believe we will get to a cure very soon.”

‘An Amazing Investment’

During the December tour of the construction site, Walker highlighted construction involved in providing medical linear accelerators, also known as LINACs, machines that are used to treat a patient with radiation for tumors.

The construction crew had to install subterranean pillars 60 feet deep, use 20-pound bricks to build fortified walls and insert steel plates in the ceilings.

The construction shields radiation from passersby, to ensure its application is “very precise,” Walker said.

“I have spent my whole career walking by LINACs and had no idea how difficult they were to build. They’re such an amazing investment in time and construction.”

The Lennar Center will also have a research and infusion area, as well as rooms designated for outpatient, CAR-T cell therapy with full-pane windows.

“This whole place is state-of-the-art. To know this facility is where I can get my treatment is mind-blowing,” noted Jeff Fitzhugh, a patient of Dr. Krishnan with multiple myeloma.

“Jeff spent a lot of time in infusion spaces, so to make this as pleasant an environment and as beautiful a setting is incredible for all of us,” Krishnan said.

Walker hinted other design elements will be announced at the hospital’s official opening this coming summer.

“We have some very intentional surprises to make this a very different place,” Walker said.  

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