Gifts Support Specimen Repository

July 10, 2015


The George Hoag Family Foundation is a longtime supporter of the Institute’s leading-edge molecular oncology programs. Earlier this year the foundation stepped up again, issuing a generous gift in support of the Institute’s valued specimen repository.

The Hoag family has made a significant philanthropic impact in Los Angeles and Orange counties, leaving a memorable legacy. The George Hoag Family Foundation began in 1940 at the direction of George and Grace Hoag and their son George Grant Hoag II. George Hoag, Sr., was a merchant who eventually became vice president of J.C. Penney in New York.

The organization, based in Santa Monica, is committed to making a positive difference in the community by improving social conditions, promoting human welfare and alleviating pain and suffering. Its main focus of funding is to nonprofit organizations that support community health care programs, social service programs and youth programs in Los Angeles, Orange County and Central Coast areas of California.

Now in its 75th year of service, the organization became one of the leading benefactors of Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California, where George and Grace resided for many years.

“The George Hoag Family Foundation has a history of support for cancer research and treatment,” says Charles W. Smith, executive director and secretary. “We’ve had a relationship with the John Wayne Cancer Institute for some time, and we’re proud to continue to partner with them.”

The organization recognizes the value of the repository, he adds: “The John Wayne Cancer Institute is internationally recognized. The tissue specimen repository is of immense value to its research and search for a cure.”

The repository is a bank of frozen specimens from cancer patients started by Institute co-founder Donald L. Morton, MD, and collected since 1971. The specimens are linked to a database containing records for more than 14,600 patients.

Today the repository is considered a gateway to the world of personalized cancer care—treatments based on each individual’s unique genetic and biochemical makeup. The repository is unique because the patients’ histories accompany the material, says Dave S.B. Hoon, PhD, professor and director of molecular oncology, chief of scientific intelligence and director of genomic sequencing at the Institute.

“If you just have a specimen and you don’t know what happens to that person afterward, it’s very limited information. Having long-term follow-up of patient information allows us to identify why some patients do well and others do not, through interrogation of their specimens,” he explains.

As cancer treatment moves toward molecular therapies, the repository becomes increasingly valuable, says Delphine J. Lee, MD, PhD, director of translational immunology and director of the Dirks/ Dougherty Laboratory for Cancer Research. “These specimens are priceless. They represent decades of Dr. Morton’s hard work and diligence in collecting the specimens and carefully recording the outcomes of patients from whom the specimens came.”

The repository will continue to grow in scope and importance, Dr. Lee says. “The world is just now catching up to this idea. The recent gift allows us to not only preserve the specimens we have but to continue to collect specimens and look at the impact of newer types of therapies. We’re grateful to the Hoag Family Foundation.”


The Irene Dunne Guild has generously funded the purchase of new, state-of-the-art, subzero storage units for the John Wayne Cancer Institute’s renowned specimen repository. The Irene Dunne Guild serves as a major support group of Saint John’s Health Center. This is the guild’s first gift to the Institute.

“The guild voted unanimously to donate toward the specimen repository,” says Dolly Niemann, chairwoman of the Irene Dunne Guild resource allocation committee. “We are excited to see the synergy between the Health Center and the Institute, and we want to support the continued success of the researchers at the Institute.”

For more information or to find out how you can support the specimen repository, please contact the Development office at 310-315-6111 or email