Forging new alliances to tackle childhood cancer

23 May 2018

Our scientists have been forging alliances in China that will open the door to research collaborations and speed the progress of childhood cancer research.

Curing childhood cancer requires global effort. Thanks to relationships built up by Children’s Cancer Institute researchers Dr Duohui (Vincent) Jing and Dr Belamy Cheung between China and Australia, we’re establishing strong connections with Chinese researchers and doctors that will help provide better outcomes for kids with cancer, everywhere.

One of these is with Tongji University.

Tongji University student exchange program

A group of our researchers has just returned from a visit to Tongji University in Shanghai. This follows a visit to our labs by Tongji students in February. The group consisted of Professor Glenn MarshallProfessor Richard LockDr Belamy Cheung (Guest Professor of Tongji University), Dr Vincent Jing, and our Head of Research Development and Partnerships, Dr Peter Wejbora.

Their 2-day program began with a tour of Tongji University by the Dean of the School of Life Sciences and Technology. The afternoon was devoted to research presentations, both from our scientists, and from Tongji researchers.

“we can really help each other out. It’s the perfect match.”

Dr Vincent Jing from our Leukaemia Biology program presents his research
Dr He Zhang, a researcher at Tongji University, presents his work

The following day, the group was taken on a tour of Shanghai Children’s Medical Centre. This is the largest children’s hospital in Shanghai, and is well-known throughout China, particularly in the area of haematology and oncology.

Meeting doctors at Shanghai Children’s Medical Centre

After showing our staff around their facility, the doctors were told about some of the work we’re doing here. As Dr Belamy Cheung relates,

“Professor Marshall gave a talk on our personalised medicine program. The doctors there were really interested, and they’re keen to find out more about it.”

The group next visited a Maternity Hospital where 30,000 babies are born every year. They saw a state-of-the-art Medical Simulation Centre used to train student doctors in every aspect of child delivery. Professor Marshall, Professor Lock and Dr Wejbora welcomed the chance to try out their surgery skills in the simulator.

Professor Marshall (left), Professor Lock (middle) and Dr Wejbora (right), after testing their surgical skills in the simulator

The entire visit was very successful, with a memorandum of understanding being signed between UNSW Sydney and Shanghai Tongji University.  Proposed activities include a student exchange program, an annual symposium at each organisation, and yearly visits to our labs by Tongji students interested in studying with us. All involved are excited at the prospect of the collaboration.

“Tongji University’s School of Life Sciences is very strong in basic scientific research, while our strength is translational medicine. So we can really help each other out. It’s the perfect match,” said Dr Cheung.

Major neuroblastoma conference to be held in Shanghai in 2022

The most important conference on a neuroblastoma researcher’s calendar, Advances in Neuroblastoma Research (ANR), has never been held in China. But, thanks to a little help from our scientists, ANR 2022 will be held in Shanghai. Professor Yeming Wu and Professor Xiao jun Yuan, members of the Chinese Child Cancer Group (CCCG), made the successful bid at the ANR 2018 conference in San Francisco earlier this month.

Professor Yuan first attended ANR in 2016 (convened by Children’s Cancer Institute in Cairns, Australia), at the invitation of Dr Belamy Cheung, Program Manager of our Molecular Carcinogenesis program. When Dr Cheung heard that the ANR Association was seeking bids from the Pacific Asia region to host ANR 2022, she immediately thought of Shanghai, and contacted Professor Yuan. With advice from Dr Cheung and Professor Murray Norris (our Deputy Director and outgoing President of the ANR Association), Professors Wu and Yuan put together a bid and were successful.

Professors Wu and Yuan bid to host ANR in Shanghai in 2022

Around 2000 new cases of neuroblastoma are diagnosed every year in China. Dr Cheung sees many potential benefits from bringing ANR to Shanghai in 2022, especially for neuroblastoma researchers and patients in China.

“This is the first time that such an important neuroblastoma conference will be held in China. It will have a huge impact on Chinese neuroblastoma research, and the treatment of Chinese children with neuroblastoma,” said Dr Cheung. 

Read how neuroblastoma researchers built bridges in San Francisco at ANR 2018 earlier this month.

Top Image: The group is shown around Tongji University campus