University of Colorado Cancer Center is entering its first international agreement with National Taiwan University College of Medicine. The agreement includes the promotion of joint research, exchange of faculty members, exchange of students, exchange of research outcomes, academic publications and other academic information.

The agreement with National Taiwan University was signed by Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, director of the CU Cancer Center and Richard D. Krugman, MD, dean of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Pan-Chyr Yang, MD, PhD, dean of the college of medicine at NTU, and Chih-Hsin James Yang, MD, PhD, director of NTU’s cancer research center.

Scientists and physicians from CU and NTU spent time learning about the other institution, what sets it apart and how the two may collaborate in the future. Both sides left the table enthusiastic about what the other university has to offer and have made plans for video conference in a few weeks to discuss collaborative proposals.

Theodorescu is excited about the possibilities. “Both of our institutions are committed to improving the lives of our patients through collaborative research that will leverage each other’s strengths and unique patient populations. There is so much we can learn from one another that will advance prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.” Theodorescu says.

Leadership at NTU also is committed to making the most of the relationship with CU Cancer Center investigators. Pan-Chyr Yang stated, “We hope this collaboration will advance both countries, most importantly in the area of translational cancer research.

The agreement reaffirms University of Colorado as an international player in the areas of cancer research and medical education.

Fred R. Hirsch, MD, PhD, associate director of CU Cancer Center’s international program, says working internationally is quite an achievement. “Globalization is important in cancer research. Working with other countries may give us a better understanding of cancer and whether it appears differently in different countries and different regions of the world and whether it may be based on ethnicity.”

Hirsch used a sub-type of lung cancer as an example. In the United States, approximately 10 percent of lung cancer patients have tumors with the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation. For those patients, an effective oral treatment is available. In Asia, between 40 to 50 percent of patients with lung cancer have the EGFR mutation. Scientists don’t know why the prevalence of EGFR mutation is higher in Asia, and partnerships like the one between CU Cancer Center and National Taiwan University may help reveal the answer to that question and others.

The agreement could lead to collaborations in many cancers, including lung, bladder, gastrointestinal and liver cancers. “Asia is a significant contributor to the progress in cancer science. My area is lung cancer and we see many landmark studies coming out of Asia these days. We see this agreement as catalyst for further collaborations,” says Hirsch.

Theodorescu also believes the partnership with Taiwan will be good for cancer patients worldwide because each side can draw on the others expertise and resources. “We can learn from each other. And the collaboration could lead to faster completion and more efficient conduct of clinical trials that could more quickly lead to new and better cancer therapies.”.

The National Cancer Institute encourages international work. According to its website, the NCI’s goal is to “advance global cancer research, build expertise, and leverage resources across nations to address the challenges of cancer and reduce cancer deaths worldwide.”