Two local philanthropists donated $5 million to UC Irvine to establish a clinical trial center for cancer research.

The money establishes the Sue and Ralph Stern Center for Cancer Clinical Trials and Research at the Choa Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is part of UC Irvine Health.

The cancer center is the only local institution where people with advanced-stage or treatment-resistant diseases can access clinical trials involving the latest therapies, according to a news release.

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"We are immensely grateful to Sue and Ralph for their generosity and for investing in the promise of better cancer care for our region," said UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake. "The Sterns' gift enhances UC Irvine's involvement in cancer research in ways that will have a lasting impact on the community."

The Sterns first visited UC Irvine Health in 2008 when Sue Stern was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor. Following her successful treatment, the couple made two donations in support of ongoing research.

The $5-million gift, which was announced Thursday, coincides with the selection of the new Choa Family Comprehensive Cancer Center director, Dr. Richard Van Etten, who specializes in the treatment of leukemia and other blood disorders, the release stated.

"Our hope is that under Dr. Van Etten's leadership — and in collaboration with community hospitals — more cancer patients will find quality treatment in Orange County, as we did, without having to go elsewhere," Ralph Stern said.