Colorectal cancer compatriots
October 2011
by Lloyd Dunlap  |  Email the author


TEMPE, Ariz.—Arizona State University (ASU) and China's Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU) have formalized a research collaboration aimed at developing early and predictive diagnostics to improve patient outcomes for colorectal cancer. ASU's Nobel Laureate, Dr. Leland Hartwell, chief scientist at the Biodesign Institute's Center for Sustainable Health, spearheaded the agreement with Dr. Jianping Wang, director of the SYSU Gastrointestinal Institute of the Sixth Affiliated Hospital in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.  
According to Hartwell, "Recent advances in molecular technologies promise great improvements in medical care through prevention and early detection of disease. Developing these advances to the stage where they are useful in the clinic requires a systematic, dedicated and long-term collaboration between the most advanced clinical research sites and state-of-the-art technology centers. We are optimistic that this collaboration will help advance the quality of colorectal cancer care worldwide."  
The Center for Sustainable Health (CSH) is a multimillion-dollar, ASU-led partnership within the Biodesign Institute with a mission of improving healthcare and reducing costs through advances in diagnostics. The Sixth Affiliated Hospital (500 beds, soon to expand to 1,000 beds) is one of eight affiliated hospitals at SYSU that have a total of 7,500 beds.
SYSU is named after Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founder of both the university and the Republic of China. He is said to be the only figure that is revered among people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The university, originally known as Guangdong University, was founded in 1924 in the city of Guangzhou (located in the southern Chinese Province of Guangdong, the forefront of China's reform and opening up). It was renamed Sun Yat-sen University in 1926.
The university has now evolved into a multidisciplinary, comprehensive research center including natural sciences, social sciences, the humanities, technical science and medical and management sciences. The Sixth Affiliated GI Hospital of SYSU is the first GI hospital in China, focusing on treating malignant and benign gastrointestinal diseases—830 new GI cancer patients including 589 with CRC were diagnosed in the hospital last year. Within SYSU and its eight affiliated hospitals, more than 2,000 CRC patients are treated each year.
Research scientists at the two universities will collaborate on the discovery, development and validation of biomarkers for screening high-risk populations to detect colon cancer at an early stage and for providing the most effective treatment strategy for patients, with the aim of improving patient outcomes and reducing cost.   The agreement with SYSU forms the second hub in the Center for Sustainable Health's Global Biosignatures Network (GBN), an effort to harness scientific, academic, industry and healthcare system resources to make a major impact on 21st century healthcare practice. SYSU joins founding member Chang Gung University, which focuses on biomarker discovery and validation for oral and colorectal cancer.
In his keynote address at the Arizona BioIndustry Association's 2011 Expo earlier this month, Dr. Michael Birt, director of the Center for Sustainable Health at ASU's Biodesign Institute, called for a shift in our health system to reward cost-effective prevention, early detection and intervention.  
"Such a shift and the technology that it would require has the potential to spur growth among bioscience organizations, reduce patient suffering, and lower healthcare costs," he stated in his prepared remarks. "By establishing biosignatures centers, we hope to build a global network that will provide the scale necessary to overcome scientific limitations while creating a global platform to share methods, results and experiences. With these formalized partnerships, we aim to develop informative tests for prevention, early detection and effective therapeutic intervention for disease.
"The overarching goal of the Global Biosignatures Network is to develop a broad spectrum of skills to transform medicine in health systems over the next decade through strategic alliances," Birt continued. "In particular, GBN seeks to build expertise in health economics, disease modeling, clinical research and trial design, care delivery, regulatory affairs, bioinformatics, information technologies, and overall technical expertise. By establishing Biosignatures Centers, we hope to build a global network that will provide the scale necessary to overcome scientific limitations while creating a global platform to share methods, results and experiences. "
Code: E101115

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