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ASU’s Leland Hartwell, Nobel laureate and chief scientist at the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Sustainable Health, spearheaded the agreement with Jianping Wang, director of the SYSU Gastrointestinal Institute of the Sixth Affiliated Hospital in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.
“Recent advances in molecular technologies promise great improvements in medical care through prevention and early detection of disease," Hartwell said. "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 (CRC) care worldwide.”
The Center for Sustainable Health (CSH) is a multi-million dollar, ASU-led partnership with a mission of improving health care 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 – with a total for all hospitals of 7,500 beds.
The Sixth Affiliated GI Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University is the first GI hospital in China, focusing on treating malignant and benign gastrointestinal diseases professionally. 830 new GI cancer patients including 589 CRC were diagnosed in the hospital last year. And the number is still growing. Within SYSU and its eight affiliated hospitals, more than 2000 CRC patients are treated each year. For basic research, SYSU has 863 key laboratories, including two key national laboratories and four provincial laboratories, tissue banks, clinical databases and surveillance centers.
Research scientists at the two universities will collaborate on the discovery, development and validation of predictive molecular signatures, called 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.
According to the CDC, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States and third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world. GLOBOCAN estimated that, in 2008, 1.23 million new cases of colorectal cancer were clinically diagnosed, with a total of more than 600,000 worldwide deaths.
Currently, screening for colorectal cancer is performed by fecal blood testing, which is ineffective and endoscopic methods which are very expensive. There is no predictive diagnostic technology available for a simple blood or stool test to identify colon cancer sensitively and specifically before symptoms appear.
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 health care system resources to make a major impact on 21st century health care practice. SYSU joins founding member Chang Gung University, which focuses on biomarker discovery and validation for oral and colorectal cancer.
“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," said Michael Birt, director of CSH at ASU’s Biodesign Institute. "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.”