From grief, a gift
Donation accelerates drug development

No one ever expected that Sue Jane Leung would ever be diagnosed with lung cancer.

“When my mom found out she had cancer in 2006, the news exploded like a bomb in our family,” says Lucinda Hsu, Leung’s daughter. “She didn’t smoke, but she still got lung cancer. Later we found out that lung cancer occurs more often in Asian women, even those who don’t smoke.”

After her diagnosis, Hsu says her mother lived courageously.

“She was an incredible example of bravery and courage to her family and friends in her determination and will to fight the disease,” Hsu says. “Her oncologist often remarked how hard my mom worked and how disciplined she was about her health. She was his model patient.”

Although Leung died from the disease in 2011, Hsu says her mother’s tenacity played an important role in her relatively long survival with lung cancer.

“She survived with cancer for over five years,” she says. “This is an incredible feat when the five-year survival rate for lung cancer is so low. During this time she endured numerous procedures, surgeries, radiation and two years of continuous chemotherapy.”

Hsu says it was her mother’s strength and determination that led the family to make a gift to UC Davis. A UC Berkeley alumna, Hsu and her father James Leung, a UC Davis engineering graduate, have given $1.5 million to establish the Sue Jane Leung Presidential Chair in Cancer Research for the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine.

This is the first presidential chair for the cancer center, and it will be held by an individual who shows excellence in cancer research and with expertise in cancer drug development and delivery.

“This generous gift from the Leung family will allow us to build a world-class cancer drug development and drug delivery program at UC Davis, and accelerate the development of novel targeting nanotherapeutics and nanoimmunotherapeutics that can save lives,” says Kit Lam, professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, and co-director of the cancer center’s Cancer Therapeutics Program.

Before deciding to make the gift, Hsu’s father, who lives in Vacaville, Calif., met with Lam to understand the scope of the work under way to improve cancer treatment. “My father wanted to find out more about the cancer research being done and what the doctors are trying to accomplish,” Hsu says. “He wanted to make sure it fit with what he wanted to accomplish with his gift.”

Making the gift to UC Davis has involved the entire extended family. Hsu, who lives in San Diego with her husband and son, has two siblings who also felt it was important to support cancer research. Her brother Lawrence lives in San Francisco and has three children. Her sister Sabina lives in Mercer Island, Wash., and also has three children.

“My mother believed a cure for cancer will be found and hoped that at least one of her grandchildren would someday pursue a career in cancer research or the practice of medicine,” Hsu says. “This is something that will help other families, people we may never know.”

Hsu says establishing the presidential chair is also a way her family can honor the memory of her mother.

“This is a way to bring something positive out of a tragedy,” she says. “This is our way to do something to honor our mom. Her fear was that her grandchildren wouldn’t get a chance to know her. But this is something that we can point to that honors her legacy. It’s important for her grandchildren to see something that she cared deeply about.”

To learn how you can help support cancer research, education and patient care, contact Keeman Wong, senior director of development, at or 916-734-9322.