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Hutchinson Center, China CDC Collaboration to Focus on Cancer

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Access to more of China's large patient populations and centralized health records, plus the ability to apply new technologies and expand on earlier joint projects, are among benefits foreseen by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center from the formal collaboration signed yesterday with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials from both institutions signed a memorandum of understanding — the first by an American research institute with the China CDC — intended to serve as a framework for additional joint research and training projects focused on prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, infectious diseases, and other health concerns.

Lawrence Corey, incoming president and director of the Hutchinson Center, told reporters during a question-and-answer period after the ceremony that researchers from his institution and the China CDC were set to discuss, starting today, how to develop and standardize among several databases the markers to be used for early detection of cancers, "as well as the unique kinds of polymorphisms, both in terms of cancers as well as in the host that are associated with response to therapy and development of new therapies for cancers.

"That requires a very large database of people who actually are the phenotype – have the disease," he said. In addition, "the technologies of developing mass spectrophotometric techniques for defining proteomics, and more importantly correlating that with clinical outcomes of large datasets is really one of the unique features that we think will come out of the early detection programs in cancer."

The China CDC has detailed birth-to-death health records of millions of Chinese citizens, generated within Chinese hospitals specializing in several forms of cancer, including gastrointestinal cancer, and lung cancer as well as TB. The scale and centralization of data and access to information on patients and outcomes and therapies are among unique worldwide resources helping drive the formal collaboration, said Corey and Yu Wang, the China CDC's director general.

The new collaboration is an outgrowth of project collaborations between Chinese health authorities and researchers from the Hutchinson Center and the University of Washington faculty since 2003. Their research has focused on HIV/AIDS projects, including vaccine clinical trials and research on "HIV controllers" whose infections never evolve into AIDS despite those individuals not taking anti-retroviral medications. Hutchinson Center faculty members have discussed with Chinese scientists a variety of studies on breast, gastrointestinal, and lung cancers in China.

Last year, a group of statisticians and researchers from the Hutchinson Center and the University of Washington helped the China CDC analyze an outbreak of human enterovirus 71 (EV71), a potentially deadly strain of hand, foot, and mouth disease. The collaboration laid the foundation for the expansion and consolidation of the formal partnership between the Hutchinson Center and the China CDC, the institutions said in a statement.

EV71 is also among subjects being discussed during a series of symposia being attended by a Chinese delegation led by Wang at the Hutchinson Center. Other topics include tuberculosis and early detection of cancer, with an initial emphasis on gastrointestinal cancer.

Yiming Shao, director of the Department of the Research on Virology and Immunology at the China CDC's National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, said three projects in all were funded with the equivalent of $1 million by the Chinese government, money that was matched by the Hutchinson Center.

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