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Dec. 27, 2011

Forming a global cancer network for research, clinical care, education and prevention.

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Happy New Year 2012

An eventful year in Global Academic Programs is coming to a close. The GAP team has grown, we have implemented new programs and services and sought to better define the value we add to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s mission of eradicating cancer. As an institution, we have a new president and a renewed emphasis on maximizing the magnitude and impact of our individual and collective efforts. It has been a busy, challenging and productive year and 2012 promises to continue these trends.

When GAP Connect launched at the beginning of February, our first Highlight article was not about science or technology, or a physician or Sister Institution. It was about a patient, and the article serves to remind us that every cooperative research project, every education initiative, and every new relationship we undertake, is with the hope of someday benefiting those with cancer. The story of Maja Kalaji also brings attention to the core of how GAP works to affect change – by creating a network of like-minded, academic and research institutions to combat cancer.

In 2011, we added four new Sister Institutions to that like-minded network: Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Neoplásicas (INEN) in Lima, Peru; Barretos Cancer Hospital in Barretos, Brazil; Instituto de Cancerología – Clinica Las Américas (IDC) in Medellin, Colombia; and King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC) in Amman, Jordan. Kalaji splits her time as a cancer patient between MD Anderson and KHCC. She and others promise to benefit not only from the formal recognition of KHCC as a Sister Institution, but from research projects like those between MD Anderson’s Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology and Hikmat Abdel-Razeq, M.D. at KHCC. Their project studying BRCA 1 and 2 mutations in Jordanian women with breast cancer garnered financial support in 2011 from GAP’s Sister Institution Network Fund (SINF).

Started this year, SINF is the first means of support specifically dedicated by MD Anderson to the international collaborations within the SI Network. The initial round awarded 22 projects funding and included 18 Sister Institutions. GAP announced the second round of funding for 2012 last week. The new Request for Application (RFA) includes many current SIs, as well as prospective newcomers to the network and ten additional projects should receive support for their cooperative research efforts. Although the relationships GAP works to foster are based on MD Anderson faculty interest and suggestions, we also recognized there are untapped partnerships among our partnering institutions.

To foster active collaboration between MD Anderson faculty and faculty throughout the network, GAP invested in SciVal Experts - also started in 2011. In Experts, researchers can search specifically within their areas of interest and find compatible partners at MD Anderson and across the network. The majority of SIs have been added to the site, with the remaining members to follow soon. Once the database is complete, faculty will be able to find research partners at any Sister Institution. GAP hopes SciVal Experts will not only help investigators who want to partner with MD Anderson, but enable them to discover colleagues at institutions they may not have previously considered.

Also this year, GAP revisited its initial mandates and began a new service and program. Both were initially outlined as part of GAP’s mission, but not implemented. The Sister Institution Referral Assistance Center will initially be a service provided to our SIs in China, but will ultimately be available to any SI. SIRAC will allow staff in GAP to assist referring physicians and their patients in visiting and seeking treatment at MD Anderson. The service will help physician and patient alike by providing information and liaison support with regard to the logistics of treatment and care at MD Anderson. SIRAC personnel will visit China in the early part of 2012 to discuss the new service with physicians and leadership at our SIs and begin assisting with patient referrals.

In addition to the type of services now offered by SIRAC, GAP was initially tasked with fostering outreach efforts to impact the care and treatment of cancer. This outreach was to focus on areas without an MD Anderson comparable cancer center with which we could create a Sister Institution relationship. This fall, GAP started the Cervical Cancer Outreach Program to contribute to this part of its mission. This program, supported by the efforts and interest of the Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine, will begin with a formal training, screening and prevention trip to Guatemala in the summer of 2012. Ultimately, through research and investigation, the program hopes to determine the best systematic plan to prevent, screen and treat cervical cancer in one region of Guatemala and expand that plan to cover the remainder of the country and eventually Central America.

Although it will be difficult to match the number of firsts in 2011, 2012 will hold many new and unique events and achievements as well. Not the least of which will be the Annual GAP Conference, which will convene in Oslo, Norway – the only time the conference has been located outside of Houston. In the future, different Sister Institutions will host the conference in even numbered years. Just as in year’s past, the conference on May 14-16, 2012 will bring together representatives from across the network to gather and discuss their successes, ideas, aspirations and plans for future research and collaboration. Many of the newly implemented efforts in GAP arose from the requests and concerns voiced by the network during the Annual GAP Conference. This year’s new perspective, away from MD Anderson’s main campus, will undoubtedly be an enlightening and productive atmosphere to analyze and discuss GAP and our efforts on behalf of the network.

As always, GAP will continue as a service department to assist the faculty of MD Anderson and their international affiliates in their efforts to educate, prevent, treat and improve the standard of care and success for patients confronting cancer. Whether through improved communications, research funding, referral assistance, outreach support or facilitating formal agreements between institutions, GAP remains dedicated to the mission of MD Anderson and our Sister Institutions. This collaborative network we are building together is an integral tool in lessening the impact of cancer worldwide. Thank you for the accomplishments of 2011. With your help, the coming year holds even greater possibilities.

Calendar of Events

Global Oncology Lecture - Phil Castle, Ph.D.
MD Anderson
Mays Clinic - ACB 1.2325
Jan. 19, 2012

Excellence in Oncology
Istanbul, Turkey
Feb. 23-25, 2012

GAP Annual Conference
Oslo, Norway
May 14-16, 2012



As promised, the Request for Application for the 2012 round of support from the Sister Institution Network Fund has been announced. Many of you may have already taken a look at the specifics of the announcement. If you have not, be sure to check the RFA for details and take a look at last year’s FAQs to see if any of your queries might have been answered last year. There will also be two webinars on Jan. 4, 2012 to answer any additional questions. Session one will be at 7:30 a.m. (CST) and session two will be at 5:00 p.m. (CST). If this is your first time applying, be sure to visit the SINF 2011 recipients and read about their projects. Even though it is the holidays, the deadline of March 1st is just around the corner.  There are a few differences between last year’s RFA and the 2012 version as well as different eligible institutions. You will notice that in addition to many of our current Sister Institutions, several potential SIs and partner institutions have the option of participating in this round of funding.  These include:

  • University of Säo Paulo at Säo Carlos, Brazil
  • Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana Research Foundation,  Bangalore, India
  • Hacettepe University Hospitals, Ankara, Turkey
  • Koc University, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Inst. of Hematology & Transfusion Medicine, Warsaw, Poland
  • Silesian Technical University, Gliwice, Poland
  • Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
  • Institute of Biochemistry & Biophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
  • Curie Memorial Cancer Center & Institute of Oncology, Gliwice, Poland
  • Victoria Comprehensive Cancer Center & Component Institutions, Melbourne, Australia
  • Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, UK

Be sure and double check that the institute with which you would like to partner is included in the RFA, as some of our SIs have chosen not to participate this year. Also, keep in mind that projects among multiple institutions will be given preference during review. This year’s SINF anticipates contributing to approximately ten projects.

Network News

Sino - US Symposium

Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center (SYSUCC) will host the symposium from Jan. 6-7, 2012 with co-sponsor, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Located in Guangzhou, China, SYSUCC became an MD Anderson Sister Institution in 2003 and the two cancer centers previously hosted the 3rd Annual Sino-US Seminar Series in Clinical Oncology in 2006. This symposium will present information regarding basic, translational and clinical research in head and neck cancer, but will focus on nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Coinciding with the symposium will be the signing of a Sister Institution renewal agreement between MD Anderson and SYSUCC.  Fellow Sister Institutions Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital (TMUCIH), Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center (FUSCC), Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and The Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS) will also participate in the symposium. This year, new MD Anderson president, Ronald DePinho, M.D., will be a keynote speaker alongside Yi-Xin Zeng, M.D., Ph.D., president of SYSUCC and three additional MD Anderson faculty members will attend. Read the symposium’s flyer and visit the website for additional information.