NCI is advancing the cancer fight globally through a series of partnerships with foreign cancer counterparts, extending from Asia to the Middle East to Europe. These bilateral agreements involve sharing research information and researchers across international borders.
NCI's longest such relationship is the 30-year-old U.S.-Japan Cooperative Cancer Research Program. Under this agreement, the two nations have sponsored more than 250 seminars and collaborated on more than 500 researcher exchanges.
The current focus of the exchange program is to provide junior scientists from both countries with mentoring, training, and research experience while working on research projects of mutual interest to the host laboratories.
NCI also is working with the National Translational Cancer Research Network of the United Kingdom to establish translational research fellowships in cancer, to train future generations of translational cancer researchers and build working relationships between these researchers on both sides of the Atlantic. Under this initiative, a shared Fellow would receive 3 years of support for working on a translational research project of mutual interest to the U.S. and the UK, splitting that fellowship period equally in both countries. It is expected that two fellowships will be awarded in 2005 and two fellowships every year thereafter.
Additionally, NCI is expanding a bilateral cancer relationship with Italy's Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) beyond the area of pharmacogenomics. Under the existing partnership, several joint research projects have been identified and collaborative research is ongoing. NCI and ISS also cosponsored a workshop on cancer vaccines in Rome last April.
Reaching Out to Russia
A significant component of that trip involved the visit to the N.N. Blokhin National Cancer Research Center in Moscow, the largest cancer treatment center in Russia. While in Moscow, Secretary Thompson and members of the HHS delegation also met with the leaders of the American-Russian Cancer Alliance (ARCA), which was started nearly 3 years ago, with participants from the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore; the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia; the Blokhin Center; and the Kurchatov Institute, the premier Russian nuclear research center.
ARCA's goal is to develop a partnership among American and Russian scientists engaged in cancer prevention and therapy. Its mission is to pool the intellectual and scientific resources of both countries, which will lead to positive results in cancer control more quickly and efficiently than if done in each country independently. Among the ARCA projects is a groundbreaking project funded by the U.S. to use Russia's expertise and nuclear facilities to produce research radioisotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic applications in oncology.
Another outcome from the HHS delegation was the creation of a joint cancer communications activity that will allow personnel from both countries' institutions to interact. In addition to NCI, the activity will involve communications personnel from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the two academic institutions currently involved with ARCA, and several U.S. nongovernmental entities. Plans are also on the table to organize a Russia-U.S. activity centered on cancer prevention.
NCI's International Research Contributions
Led by Dr. Allan Hildesheim of NCI's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG) and Dr. Rolando Herrero of Fundación INCIENSA, the 8-year study will randomize 12,000 to 15,000 women aged 18 to 25 years to receive either the VLP or a control vaccine. Enrollees will receive three vaccinations over a period of 6 months and will participate in follow-up screening for several more years. Preclinical studies in the United States and elsewhere have repeatedly suggested the potential usefulness of VLP HPV vaccines. Other trials have also suggested that this type of vaccine shows adequate short-term protection from persistent HPV infections in women.
Other studies in which DCEG has been involved include research collaborations with China, Japan, Africa, Russia, Australia, and Europe, some dating back as far as the early 1970s. For example, NCI and the Shanghai Cancer Institute of China have been collaborating on numerous projects, including a prospective study to evaluate causes of cancer among women in China. In Africa, NCI has teamed up with the Ugandan Virus Research Institute to study AIDS-related cancers such as Kaposi's sarcoma. DCEG has also played an important role in a partnership between investigators in Australia, Europe, and the U.S. to map novel melanoma susceptibility genes and better understand the risk factors for melanoma.