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City of Hope plants its flag in Newport Beach with new outpatient cancer clinic

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Annette Walker, president of City of Hope Orange County, center, U.S. Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach), third from right, and Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill, second from left, join a grand-opening ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for City of Hope’s Newport Beach facility.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

An expansive new City of Hope outpatient clinic in Newport Beach will reduce commutes for hundreds of Orange County cancer patients who have been visiting specialists at the treatment network’s headquarters in the San Gabriel Valley.

For Frank Di Bella and Todd Kennedy, the drive will go from at least an hour and a half each way to as little as a few minutes — a lot of time saved after a lot of years that they say City of Hope physicians reclaimed for them.

The 12,500-square-foot clinic at 1601 Avocado Ave. in Newport Center has rooms for exams and minor surgical procedures and biopsies, a natural-light-drenched second floor dedicated to infusion therapies — including chemotherapy and immunotherapy — and a pharmacy. It will get its first patients next week.

“This [location] is so symbolic to us because it’s a tangible expression that we’re serious, we’re here,” Annette Walker, president of City of Hope Orange County, said just before a grand-opening ceremony Tuesday.

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Last year alone, 3,200 Orange County patients traveled to City of Hope’s main campus in Duarte, Walker said.

Duarte is about 10 miles east of Pasadena and about 50 miles north of Newport Beach — a trek that can be demanding even for healthy people.

City of Hope’s Newport location is the first of a $1-billion, four-location investment the network is making in Orange County.

It has facilities throughout Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. A location in Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley will migrate to Newport.

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A comprehensive 11-acre campus in Irvine will open next year, with a specialty hospital on the grounds coming in 2025. The FivePoint Gateway location also will include an outpatient center and a research center offering clinical research trials.

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Annette Walker, right, president of City of Hope Orange County, shares a hug with patient Kandace McMenomy during the grand opening Tuesday of City of Hope’s outpatient cancer clinic in Newport Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Two more outpatient clinics also are in the works, Walker said.

She said City of Hope listened to its patients, and the excitement is palpable.

Twenty percent of Orange County cancer patients leave the county for advanced care, Walker said.

Dr. Ravi Salgia, a lung and thoracic cancer specialist and City of Hope’s chairman of medical oncology and therapeutic research, said its commitment to research and patient care sets City of Hope apart.

“Here, we’ll have first-class leaders in lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, myeloma, leukemia,” he said.

About 10 accomplished physicians will be attached to the Newport clinic, including Dr. Monty Pal, co-director of City of Hope’s kidney cancer program.

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Di Bella, 74, of Newport Beach, lost a kidney to cancer more than 20 years ago. When cancer returned and attacked his bladder, then his bones and a lung, doctors at two other area hospitals told him he had two to four months to live.

“I said, ‘I’ll take it,’” he said.

But he kept looking for answers, and he found Pal, who put him in a treatment regimen that he said could get Di Bella four more years. It’s been eight, and he is in remission.

Pal has one of the largest portfolios of clinical trials for kidney and bladder cancer research on the West Coast and has published more than 300 articles on PubMed, according to City of Hope. In addition to helping to extend Di Bella’s life, he found and shrunk tumors on his spine and neck that were close to paralyzing him.

Kennedy, 55, of Coto de Caza, is in remission from multiple myeloma, a rare type of cancer that attacks plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow that fights off infections and is crucial to a functioning immune system. He remembers the date — Dec. 26, 2017 — when he was told his back pain meant “either Stage 4 colon cancer or multiple myeloma.”

He found Dr. Amrita Krishnan, an internationally recognized expert in multiple myeloma and a 23-year City of Hope veteran. His wife emailed Krishnan and received an answer 11 minutes later.

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Tuesday’s grand-opening ceremony for City of Hope’s 12,500-square-foot Newport Beach clinic draws a crowd to 1601 Avocado Ave.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Kennedy said he has made 67 trips from his south Orange County home to Duarte with the help of his wife. He said a lot of people can’t do that.

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And now he won’t have to — next month, he will report to the Newport Beach clinic for his regular immunotherapy to keep his body’s defenses strong.

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