1. Background

    Cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality in the world. Many interventions have been developed to circumvent issues that were encountered in diagnosis, treatment and prevention, yet there is still the need for improvement. Thus, the goal of the project of 'Top International Research Center' is to combine existing strengths of both cancer centers in Taiwan, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University and China Medical University & Hospital, and MD Anderson Cancer Center, USA and to improve diagnosis, treatment and prevention for cancer patients in Taiwan. The research will be focused on discovering new biomarkers, molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis and metabolomics, signal transduction pathways of cancer cells and the role of cancer stem cells with the combination of drug discovery, development of novel targeted therapy and clinical trials. The specific aims are:
  • a.: To discover the novel mechanism of tumorigenesis, metastasis and drug resistance of cancers with common interests, specifically focus on the endemic cancers with ethnic differences between East and West.
  • b.: To identify druggable pathways and targets.
  • c.: To develop biomarkers and effective therapies to improve treatment outcome of cancer patients.
 

2. Origin of collaboration

 

The advantages of College of Medicine, National Taiwan University (NTUCM) in cancer research in Taiwan

    In the Times, National Taiwan University (NTU) was reported to rank as 84, 45 and 43 in the world in 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively, in the field of life science and biomedical science, ranking first among the universities in Taiwan. Also, the statistics of Higher Education Evaluation & Accreditation Council of Taiwan indicate that the world ranking of the College of Medicine, National Taiwan University (NTUCM) was 166 in the field of clinical medicine in 2010, again ranking as the nation's top university. NTUCM combines leading cancer translational medical research, cancer clinical trials and genomics research center in Taiwan and is the leader for cancer treatment and research in Taiwan.
Cancer Research Center of Excellence:To meet the increasing needs for cancer treatment and the further study of endemic cancer, the 'Cancer Research Center' of NTUCM was established in 1999. The Cancer Research Center has outstanding integrated programs in patient care, basic research, clinical service, medical education, clinical trials, and cancer prevention, has established a specialized database in Taiwan and is devoted to the genomic epidemiology of cancer research. Our clinical research focuses on developing new treatments for endemic cancers in Taiwan, including gastric cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer etc, with the special features of Taiwan. In recognition of the outstanding achievements of the 'Cancer Research Center', it was awarded the four-year program grant, 'Cancer Research Center of Excellence' by Department of Health in 2010, focusing on cancer translational medical research.
National Clinical Trial and Research Center (NCTRC):The National Center of Excellence for Clinical Trial and Research was established at the National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) by the Department of Health in 2007 in recognition of NTUH as the center of excellence in clinical research in Taiwan and also a center of excellence in clinical research in Asia Pacific. In recent years, our phase II and III clinical trials have ranked as one of the first three in medical centers in Asia. In addition, the Phase I Center, established in 2009, is conducting many phase I clinical trials for novel drugs in parallel with the western countries; therefore, our team has the capability of translating basic research to the development of drugs for the cancer market.
NTU Center of Genomic Medicine:NTUCM has fully developed its genomic research program, thus establishing the NTU Center of Genomic Medicine with the support of grants from Ministry of Education, 'Integration of University of Research-type' and 'Top University', in 2002. Since April 2003, we have built 10 core laboratories, including laboratories related to translational cancer research, such as Proteomics and Protein Function, Microarray, Biomedical Molecular Imaging, Tissue Bank, Transgenic Mouse and Gene Knockout Mouse, Bioinformatics and Biostatistics, Stem Cell and Metabolomics.
 

The Distinguishing Features of China Medical University & Hospital

    China Medical University & Hospital (CMU&H) has been recognized as the top cancer medical and research center in the central region in Taiwan; we have outstanding performance in both clinic and research. In the past two years, CMU&H successfully obtained two prestigious multi-year program/flagship type grants, 'Clinical Trial and Research Center of Excellence' and 'Cancer Research Center of Excellence'. In 2009, it was awarded the 'National Award of Quality in Biotechnology and Medicine'. In order to provide quality services for cancer patients, CMU&H has built a state-of-the-art Cancer Center which started its operation on November 16, 2007 and is led by Dr. Chih-Yi Chen and Dr. Chang-Fang Chiu. The cancer research of Cancer Center is outstanding; the number of papers in breast cancer, oral cancer, lung cancer and leukemia and h-index both have significant improvements. These achievements further attest that CMU&H clinical and cancer research have reached a leading position in Taiwan.
    In recent years, CMU&H is active in medical research. The Department of Medical Research at CMU&H led by Dr. Fuu-Jen Tsai strives to create novel core techniques, diagnoses and treatments. Over the past few years the Department of Medical Research has been devoted to single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) analysis and the molecular diagnosis of genetic diseases and has obtained outstanding achievements. Furthermore, we applied these techniques to cancer research, especially the collaboration with Center for Molecular Medicine in cancer research have resulted several papers published in high-impact journals, such as Nature Cell Biology.
    In order to strengthen the cancer research, CMU&H established Center for Molecular Medicine (CMM) in 2006. CMM led by Dr. Mien-Chie Hung exhibits a world standard for basic cancer research; this center has established a variety of animal models to study novel signaling pathway networks in vivo, and provides a platform for preclinical assessment of drug efficacy and animal toxicity tests. In addition, CMM received multi-year program grants of 'Stem Cell Flagship Program' and 'Development of Research in Private Universities' from National Science Council. Five years of continuous exchanges and collaborations between CMU&H and MD Anderson have provided an infinite potential for research development. The overall performance of CMM in both quality and quantity is remarkable, and is capable of competing with other national academic institutions. As a result, CMM has the potential to become a top cancer signal transduction and translational medical research center in Asia.
    Furthermore, CMU&H actively builds a comprehensive platform for drug research and invests a considerable number of resources for drug development. In particular, Dr. Yang-Chang Wu, an expert in studying natural products, was recruited to be Vice President of China Medical University and lead us in the development of anti-cancer compounds and translational research. Dr. Wu has dedicated his research to the field of Chinese herbal medicine, the study of compound composition and natural products and the plants unique to Taiwan for herbal drug development, for twenty years. To date more than two thousand compounds have been extracted and purified in which about one-tenth of them have demonstrated antitumor activities. In recent years, the outstanding research teams of pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, and molecular biology conducted interdisciplinary and integrated translational medical research.
 

The advantages of Center for Biological Pathways at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in cancer research in the world

    The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MD Anderson) is well recognized in the world for its campaign of 'Making Cancer History'. It is located at the heart of the Texas Medical Center (TMC), which is the largest medical center in the world consisting of many premier biomedical research institutes and centers in basic science, translational as well as clinical research, and patient care. It was established in 1941 and was one of the original three Comprehensive Cancer Centers designated by the National Cancer Institution (NCI) in 1971. It has been ranked as the nation's #1 cancer hospital for six of the last nine years in the U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Hospitals" survey.
    Its faculty members have been awarded more competitive research grants from the NCI, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and have conducted more clinical trials of potential new therapies than any other institution. The Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) of MD Anderson was awarded by the NCI (a five-year total of more than $US 52.7 million ($NT 1.7 billion) and partially supports funding for shared resources available to all cancer center members, which include a myriad of instruments and services to facilitate research. In addition, among only 16 organ-specific Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs) designated by the NCI, MD Anderson has 12 of them, the largest number awarded in the United States. In addition, MD Anderson has funded several internal Centers to enrich the existing scientific collaborations, interactions and productivity; and to complement CCSG programs including the Center for Biological Pathways. Dr. Hung serves as the Program Leader for MD Anderson's CCSG "Cell Biology and Signal Transduction" program and in 2008 (until present), he was appointed as the Director of Center for Biological Pathways at the MD Anderson to coordinate biological pathway studies in cancers throughout the entire institution (the Center for Biological Pathways has garnered more than 130 faculty members from 42 departments). More recently, in 2010, Dr. Hung was promoted to Vice President for Basic Research overseeing basic research for the institution. The Sister Institution relationship between CMU&H and MD Anderson was formalized in June 2008, and CMU&H has organized annual joint International Cancer Symposia with MD Anderson in November since 2007. In June 2006, Dr. Mien-Chie Hung was appointed as the Honorary Director and Distinguished Professor to build up CMM of CMU&H. Dr. Mien-Chie Hung has actively helped to form collaborations between CMU&H and MD Anderson, resulting in many excellent research achievements. All of these active interactions will definitely help promote this grant of 'Top International Research Center'.
    MD Anderson is a premier cancer center in the world, based on its outstanding physicians and scientists, its research-driven patient care and science, and its mission of 'Making Cancer History'. For this reason, CMU&H teamed up with MD Anderson as the 'Top Notch International Research Center' in this grant application. Moreover, there are three main remarkable fields listed below, which CMHU will gain insightful knowledge of the success of MD Anderson.
 

The advantages of Center for Biological Pathways at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in cancer research in the world

    NTUCM has abundant experience in multiple fields and international collaborations; it also has frequent exchanges with MD Anderson. In order to obtain knowledge and know-how for the establishment of a top notch international cancer center in CMU&H, in October, 2003, Dr. Chang-Hai Tsai, Chair of the Board of CMU&H led a five-member delegation to visit MD Anderson. In May 2005, Dr. Chang-Hai Tsai invited Dr. Margaret L. Kripke, Executive Vice President of MD Anderson at the time, Dr. Isaiah Josh Fidler, Chair of the Department of Cancer Biology at the time, and Dr. Mien-Chie Hung, Chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, to visit the opening ceremony of Cancer Center of CMU&H and sign the Memorandum of Understanding and additionally to facilitate the exchange of ideas and establish collaborations. Afterwards, both institutes began to initiate active collaborations and interactions. For examples, CMU&H has organized an annual joint International Cancer Symposium with MD Anderson since 2007.
 

3. Organization structure

    This international research center has two major research directions: Basic research and translational research. Through translating basic research into clinical research, this international research center is dedicated to developing effective strategies for cancer prevention and treatment and to improve the well being of cancer patients. The organization of the international research center is illustrated in the diagram below.
Advisory Committee:NSC and the principal investigators of three research centers, NTUCM, CMU&H and MD Anderson, will invite domestic and foreign distinguished research fellows for consultation and evaluation. There will be at least one advisory committee meeting per year for the principal investigators to present their progresses.
International Administrative Office: This office is under the Director of research center and will be responsible for managing the project implementation and arranging communication, collaborations and meetings among three research centers.
NTUCM Research Center: Prof. Pan-Chyr Yang, principal investigator of the main project and Dean of NTUCM, will lead this center and integrate Cancer Research Center of Excellence, NCTRC and NTU Center of Genomic Medicine. The project leaders of the three research groups will serve as co-principal investigators helping implement the projects.
CMU&H Research Center: This center is led by Prof. Chih-Yi Chen, principal investigator of the main project and Superintendent of Cancer Center, who will integrate Cancer Research Center of Excellence, CMM (basic biology), Natural Product Center (translational medicine) and Genetic Center. The project leaders of these research groups will serve as co-principal investigators helping progress the projects.
MD Anderson Research Center: Drs. Mien-Chie Hung and Dihua Yu, Director and Co-director of the Center for Biological Pathway, MD Anderson, Dr. Edward T. H. Yeh, Chairman of the Department of Cardiology, MD Anderson will serve as principal investigators, integrating the core techniques and facilities of Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) of MD Anderson, coordinating each research center of Institute of Basic Science and assisting in implementing the projects.
 
Organization structure