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May 29, 2012

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

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For One Patient – How a Team at MD Anderson Worked to Treat a Patient from China

Today, Jinsong Chen is in Shanghai, China with her ten-year old son. In December, her doctors in China had told her she would not live to see the New Year. But a program at MD Anderson had laid the foundation for her one chance at defying that deadline. Chen left her home not knowing if she would ever return and put her life and future in the hands of a dedicated team intent on helping her access the care she needed.

Jinsong Chen had been diagnosed with a gene mutated melanoma that had metastasized throughout her body. Her doctors at Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center (FUSCC) explained to her that she only had a few weeks to live. But there was a glimmer of hope. In September 2011, Global Academic Programs had established the Sister Institution Referral Assistance Center (SIRAC). This Center had begun working with GAP’s Sister Institutions in China to provide services for physicians and patients who wanted, or needed, to come to MD Anderson for treatment.  Chyi Chou, SIRAC’s project director, had made connections with GAP’s Chinese Sister Institutions and had established points of contacts and provided information about the Center. As a Sister Institution, Chen’s doctors at FUSCC were aware of the new service and contacted Chou about the situation. Without a drug available at MD Anderson, Chen would not live long.

Chou immediately began coordinating bringing Chen to Houston with the help of MD Anderson’s International Center, Physician Relations, Language Assistance, Patient Services and Wen-Jen Hwu, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology. Hwu would be Chen’s physician at MD Anderson and worked tirelessly to evaluate Chen’s medical information and write an invitation letter necessary to speed up the Visa process. Even with the effort to bring Chen to Houston, no one knew if she would qualify for a protocol or respond to treatment. When Chen left China, she said goodbye to her son, believing she would never see him again.

Treatment at MD Anderson was not easy. Chen has severe reactions to the Hwu prescribed her, but after weeks of working with the dosage, Hwu and her staff were able to establish a balance between efficacy and side-effects. Throughout those difficult days, Chen recounts how Hwu, Chou, and Hwu’s team; clinical nurse Erliza Creag, physician’s assistant Maura Glover and scheduler Melania Hogan, kept track of Chen’s progress.

“They answered all our questions, whether they were related to the therapy or not,” says Chen. “When I had reactions to the drug they gave us advice and helped us feel confident about the course of treatment.”

Chen responded well to her treatment and was able to begin walking and living without constant pain. When she arrived in Houston, she had been confined to a wheel chair. After nearly a month at MD Anderson, Hwu told Chen and her husband Kui Zheng they could go home. The oral medication would be prescribed to her here at MD Anderson and she could be monitored by a physician at FUSCC. Chen will be watched carefully to ensure the medication is keeping her cancer under control and her team at MD Anderson will keep up-to-date on her status and quality of life. But accessing the care at MD Anderson had allowed Chen to see not only a new year, but to re-unite with her son.

“MD Anderson gave hope to a desperate patient and organized a powerful team to offer me the best therapy,” Chen commented. “We can only express our sincere appreciation for the service and support we received her and hope MD Anderson is able to advance and save even more people’s lives.”

Calendar of Events

Symposia on Cancer Research 2012
San Diego, California
Sept. 21-22, 2012

DKFZ Stem Cell Symposium
Heidelberg, Germany
Oct. 14-16, 2012

Yonsei Joint Symposium
Seoul, Korea
Oct. 18-19, 2012


Norwegian Cancer Center Hosts Global Academic Programs Conference 2012

LaChanda Jenkins, program manager, Center for Global Oncology – MD Anderson

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Norwegian Cancer Consortium (NCC) hosted nearly 500 participants, representing 23 countries, at the 2012 Global Academic Programs (GAP) Conference May 14-16, in Oslo, Norway.

This was the first time the annual gathering of MD Anderson’s international network of cancer centers, hospitals and universities -- called Sister Institutions—was held outside of Houston.  NCC, which is composed of Oslo University Hospital, Stavanger University Hospital and the Cancer Registry of Norway, is the first Sister Institution to host the conference.

Bjørn Erikstein, CEO, Oslo University Hospital, opened the seventh annual conference by thanking MD Anderson, which he called the leading cancer center in the world, for the foresight in initiating the global network of oncologists, researchers and students working collaboratively to lessen the world's cancer burden.

“Cancer is a global fight and international collaboration is required in the war against cancer,” Erikstein said.

Oliver Bogler, vice president of Global Academic Programs at MD Anderson, welcomed guests and recognized the NCC for their work in making the first conference held at a Sister Institution a success.

United States Ambassador to Norway, Barry B. White cited the GAP conference as a perfect example of collaboration and commended attendees for their work in eliminating cancer worldwide and improving the health of mankind.

In the first plenary lecture, titled “Worldwide Problem, Worldwide Solution,” MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho, M.D., echoed those sentiments and urged attendees to work together to fight cancer globally.

“We’re all members of the world community. It’s not about Houston or the United States, but it’s about solving a problem that many families are counting on us to solve,” DePinho said. “Part of the power and promise of our consortium, of our program, our global network is the opportunity to really capture the full complexity of cancer worldwide.”

DePinho added that given the fact that 100 million lives will be lost to cancer in this decade, MD Anderson will need global partners to fulfill its mission of eliminating cancer.
“As big as MD Anderson is, as replete with resources and talent as it is, cancer is a big problem and it’s something that’s going to require big solutions that extend well beyond the walls of MD Anderson,” he said.

President DePinho then outlined a “bold and ambitious plan” to cure several major cancers through the acquisition and implementation of scientific knowledge. Through an initiative he calls “moon shots”, MD Anderson will select up to five full scale cancer programs with a goal of decreasing mortality in those selected cancers significantly in the next 5 years and dramatically in 10 years.
DePinho said success will require a comprehensive, integrated effort focusing prevention, early detection, prognostication and treatment. Just as important, he said, is international collaboration.

“We need your help, we need your brilliance, we need your drive and passion, in order for us to achieve this goal,” DePinho told the audience.

Over the course of the three-day conference, equally powerful plenary lectures delved into timely issues including palliative medicine, personalized medicine, cancer registries and vaccines.

Following morning plenary sessions, participants then benefitted over 170 workshops that explored a range of topics, including gynecology, prostate, colorectal, breast, lymphoma, head and neck, thoracic/lung, metastasis, screening and survivorship. The conference also included poster sessions with over 75 posters and a nursing program, with a focus on breast cancer care.

For the first time, the GAP conference included a Partnering Event. The program matched conference registrants with similar research interests for 15 minute meetings. These Sister Institution ‘speed dates’ were designed to foster new international collaborations.

The GAP conference also featured 11 projects funded by the Sister Institution Network Fund (SINF), which Bogler highlighted in an informative workshop. Launched in 2010, the SINF is designed to seed collaborative research between MD Anderson and Sister Institutions worldwide.

The research-packed event culminated with a call for the development of a Global Cancer Prevention Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to develop multidisciplinary, international collaborations focused on implementation of effective cancer prevention and early detection practices worldwide. Primary focus will be on tobacco cessation, diet and nutrition and physical exercise programs. Secondary prevention will center on screenings for colorectal, breast, cervical and lung cancers.

GAP’s Norwegian hosts treated guests to impressive social events designed to highlight Norway. At the invitation of the Mayor of Oslo, guests attended a reception on the first evening at Oslo City Hall, where the Nobel Prize is awarded. The second evening featured a reception at the Museum of the famed Holmenkollen Ski Arena.

Support for the conference was provided by Radium Hospital Foundation and DNB Bank ASA in Norway, which funded 12 travel scholarships for student researchers.
The 2013 GAP conference will be held at MD Anderson in Houston, April 3-5 and in 2014 at the Yonsei Cancer Center in Seoul Korea.

Network News

SIRAC – Supporting Patients and Physicians Overseas

In April, Chyi Chou, project director of The Sister Institution Referral Assistance Center (SIRAC) in Global Academic Programs, travelled to China to meet directly with three of GAP’s Sister Institutions: Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center (FUSCC), Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute & Hospital (TMUCIH) and Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center (SYSUCC). During her visit she outlined the steps to enable patients like Jinsong Chen to travel to MD Anderson for treatment and toured the institutions in order to develop a deeper understanding of the medical and treatment systems in China. Her presentations regarding SIRAC were well-received by physicians and administrators and the strengthened connections between MD Anderson and the Chinese SIs will make transferring and treating future patients a smoother and more productive process. If you have any interest in learning more about SIRAC, please contact Chyi Chou at or 713-792-8866.

Videos of GAP Conference 2012 Linked

Many of the lectures of the GAP 2012 conference were recorded and will be placed online by the Norwegian Cancer Consortium. Presently, five videos have been added to the website, including, the opening presentations by Ronald DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson, Oliver Bogler, Ph.D., vice president of GAP, Bjorn Erikstein, M.D., CEO of Oslo University Hospital and Barry White, US ambassador to Norway. Take a look at these videos and check back for now additions to the site.