SEATTLE—The Chinese Center for Disease Control andPrevention (China CDC) and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in lateOctober agreed to construct the framework of a relationship to search for curesfor emergent infectious disease and cancer in China—marking the first suchagreement between the China CDC and a U.S. cancer research center.
The memorandum of understanding provides a framework forscientific research and training projects that support and contribute to theprevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, infectiousdiseases and other related health concerns in China and the United States.
Dr. Steve Self, executive director of the Statistical Centerfor HIV/AIDS Research and Prevention at the Hutchinson Center, says the Chineseand U.S researchers had been working together in a piecemeal fashion for atleast a decade and are now seeking to maximize these efforts through a formalpact.
"We wanted to continue and broaden research programs andexplore additional vaccines," he says. "When we took a more global look at thecollaborations and points of contact we had in China, we had more than weoriginally realized."
The collaboration was made official during a signingceremony at the Hutchinson Center involving China CDC Director Dr. General YuWang, and incoming Hutchinson Center President and Director Dr. Larry Corey.
"The prevention and early detection of tumors and relatedinfectious diseases, as an important strategy for promoting health andextending a healthy lifespan, are the shared priorities of both the China CDCand the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center," Wang said at the time. Wangled the delegation from China that spent three days at the Hutchinson Center toattend a series of science symposia conducted by researchers from bothinstitutions.
"This is a groundbreaking agreement that provides a uniqueresearch collaboration in a wide area of global health problems in bothinfectious diseases and cancer," Corey said in a prepared statement. "Theability to link Hutchinson Center scientists and programs with the China CDC'snational database and scientific programs will provide major advantages both tothe U.S. and Chinese research communities."
Self says three areas of collaboration in the areas ofinfectious disease are being addressed in the beginning by the combinedefforts.
"Hand, foot and mouth disease reached epidemic proportionsin China in about 2008," Self says. "In about the past year and a half, therehave been about 1.4 million children affected. The Chinese are now receivinggrant funding to work on this issue. It's an interesting, important opportunityto perform epidemiological studies there."
In 2009, a group of Hutchinson Center and University ofWashington statisticians and researchers helped the China CDC analyze theoutbreak of a novel and potentially deadly strain of hand, foot and mouth diseasecalled EV71. This collaboration was one of the clearest demonstrations of thedepth and degree of the partnerships in place, and the watershed event that ledto the formal partnership between the Hutchinson Center and the China CDC.
"In addition," Self continues, "We'll be modeling theirnational surveillance data, working on research on HIV and will be looking attuberculosis vaccines, as that disease has emerged in China as well."
The partnership will also have under its purview cancerbiomarker research and will begin to peel back the layers of mystery thatsurround cancers that have an underlying infectious agent in their etiology,Self concludes.
"China has some neat research opportunities because of itspopulations," Self adds. "They will seek funding there, and Fred Hutchinsonwill write grants here as well, and we can leverage funding from China as well.We're in the middle of developing those grants now."
Since 2003, the Hutchinson Center and University ofWashington faculty have worked with Chinese health authorities on collaborativeHIV/AIDS projects, including vaccine clinical trials and research on a smallpopulation of HIV-infected persons known as "HIV controllers." These arepatients whose long-term infections never progress to AIDS despite their nottaking anti-retroviral medications. In addition, Hutchinson Center facultymembers have been involved in discussions with Chinese scientists in a varietyof studies on breast, gastrointestinal and lung cancers in China.
Thus far, according to Self, the partners have made progressin all three infectious disease areas that will be addressed by the jointeffort.
"We used a fairly eclectic approach to research on vaccinesto address ED71," he says. "The Chinese have developed it through thepreclinical phase, and it may be ready for clinic trials soon. They also havean HIV vaccine candidate developed, and are working on an efficacy trial onthat. And our partners in China are in discussions with GSK on a vaccine forTB."
Chinese officials did not respond to a request for commentfor this story.
EV71 was among the subjects of the science symposiumattended by the Chinese delegation. Other topics include tuberculosis and earlydetection of cancer, with an initial emphasis on gastrointestinal cancer.
Self says one of the most intriguing concepts that came fromthe symposium was making specimens from Chinese labs available to U.S.researchers.
"It was exciting to discuss the possibility of allowing thesamples out of China into labs here, for work that couldn't be done in China,"he says.
Over time, Self says, the agreement will allow bothflexibility and structure to research of the future.
"This agreement can provide the framework, but we still wantit to be flexible so we all can go where the science and the research take us,"he says.
The Hutchinson Center is known for it interdisciplinaryteams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians who work together toprevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Its researchersinclude three Nobel laureates.