Andrew and Peggy Cherng, co-founders and co-CEOs of Panda Express, are being called visionary philanthropists for what City of Hope calls a transformative gift of $100 million to establish the Cherng Family Center for Integrative Oncology. It seeks to bring together Eastern and Western treatments for cancers in a first-of-its-kind national integrative oncology program.
Until recently, the Cherngs lived in South Pasadena and have a long history of philanthropy in the area including large gifts to Huntington Hospital.
Panda Express began as the Panda Inn restaurant in East Pasadena, founded in 1973 by Andrew Cherng and his father, Ming Tsai Cherng.
“Panda Restaurant Group began 50 years ago with a vision to bring the best of Eastern and Western flavors and cultures together through food. In the same spirit, we hope the Cherng Family Center for Integrative Oncology becomes a model of bringing the best of Eastern and Western medicine together to unlock holistic healing for our communities,” says Peggy Cherng. “At Panda, one of our core values is giving, and we are grateful to help establish, through this gift from the Panda Charitable Family Foundation, pioneering integrated cancer care to not only save lives but improve the quality of life for cancer patients.”
“I believe people can benefit a lot from Eastern medicine in the United States,” she added, “and by combining it with Western medicine, City of Hope has the potential to elevate care for patients with cancer.”
The gift, which establishes the Cherng Family Center for Integrative Oncology at City of Hope, is the largest single philanthropic contribution for cancer care in City of Hope history.
Over the last 40 years, Peggy and Andrew, through their philanthropic initiatives including Panda Cares and the Panda Charitable Family Foundation, have supported worthy causes in health care, education, children’s organizations and disaster relief.
“Life really is about that,” explained Andrew. “I think that when our neighbors are doing well, when our community is doing well, when our country is doing well, everybody is doing well. America is a wonderful place and good things happen here because there are so many kind and generous people out there, helping other people.”
“We are grateful for this gift, which will allow us to lead the way in integrative oncology and continue to pioneer compassionate medical innovation as we have done at City of Hope for more than 100 years,” said Robert Stone, CEO of City of Hope and the Helen and Morgan Chu Chief Executive Officer Distinguished Chair. “Innovative and holistic care is part of our culture and mission; we are committed to supporting and treating the whole patient – not just the cancer. I am honored that our cancer expertise, world-class research environment, national patient population, robust clinical trials program and compassionate ethos have prepared City of Hope to lead this work.”
Eastern practitioners, like the local Lotus Center for Integrative Medicine, welcomed the news with hope and enthusiasm. They shared with their followers that in 2001, they shared office space with an oncologist at Huntington Hospital and explained that in those days it was extremely difficult to speak the language of Chinese medicine to oncologists. Through the years they have supported many patients through their cancer journeys led by Steven Gomberg, who is passionate about the field of oncology.
“Given this generous funding in a reputable institution, this will hopefully pave the way for a new generation of Chinese medicine practitioners to make a significant impact on cancer,” read their statement on social media. “We are looking forward to seeing what this new collaboration will produce!”
An estimated 40% of cancer patients currently use integrative therapies and studies show that integrative therapies support better health, improve quality of life and optimize clinical outcomes. Yet very few health care organizations provide access to integrative therapies under physician supervision. City of Hope says they will use the Panda Charitable Family Foundation gift to make integrative oncology an evidence-based, interwoven standard of care that supports optimal cancer treatment and survivorship.
The Cherng Family Center will be sharply focused on bridging the knowledge and science gap between traditionally Western cancer treatments – chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, immunotherapy – and evidence-based, yet lesser-understood Eastern medicine, including acupuncture and herb-based treatments.
“To be able to bring the best from Eastern medicine to the Western world requires critical thinking about seeking alternative ways of integrating two very different cultures, two very different treatment methodologies, in order to provide the best,” Peggy said.
The center will have three goals: support research and clinical trials to develop evidence-based best practices for cancer patients, expand patient access to proven treatments, and educate and train the next generation of oncologists and scientists in integrative medicine. Within the next year, City of Hope plans to create one of the first integrative oncology fellowships led by oncologists.
“We’re going to push the science forward,” said Richard T. Lee, M.D., Cherng Family Director’s Chair for the Center for Integrative Oncology. “Ultimately, it’s about looking outside the box for treatments and incorporating them with evidence of safety and efficacy that improves care. That will be a real pillar of what we do.”