December 15, 2021

Cures Across Countries: JI Cancer Session Draws Researchers from China, US


Leading cancer researchers from Michigan Medicine and Peking University Health Science Center gathered recently for a discussion exploring their work as well as opportunities for future collaborative research.

Leaders of the Joint Institute (JI) have identified cancer as a research priority for future projects in the partnership. The Dec. 14 discussion, which featured presentations by three researchers from each institution and drew an audience of nearly 100 from opposite sides of the world, marks the beginning of a new phase of JI collaborations, according to  Joseph C. Kolars, JI Co-Director and UMMS Senior Associate Dean for Education and Global Initiatives.

"This is the start what is hopefully a longer conversation around cancer immunology. We’ve had some projects in cancer but this is an area that moving forward we would like to prioritize,” said Kolars, MD, MACP. “The burden of disease in both of countries call on us to be more creative and collaborative in terms of how we connect with each other.”

Max Wicha, MD, Madeline and Sidney Forbes Professor of Oncology and Director of the Forbes Institute for Cancer Discovery, and Ning Zhang, PhD, Professor at Peking University First Hospital and Associate Director at Peking University International Cancer Institute, moderated the discussion. Among the researchers to present, PKUHSC International Cancer Insititute Director Qimin Zhan, PhD, reviewed his work in Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and James Moon, PhD, U-M Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, presented his cutting-edge research in nanodisc vaccination, which shows promise in delivering personalized immunotherapy treatments. Weiping Zou, PhD, MD, Director of U-M Center of Excellence for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy, discussed the cancer therapy past, present and future, and revealed the importance of the metabolism in tumor immunity and therapy. 

The session was the first in a planned series of “Bridging” conference intended to connect researchers from each institution and forge ahead with collaborations despite the ongoing travel restrictions posed by COVID-19. The next session will take place on Jan. 10, 2022: Perusing Global Health Equity: Perspectives from China and the US, will spotlight PKUHSC’s Department of Global Health as well as the new U-M Center for Global Health Equity, which will co-host the event.

“In our partnership, we have an opportunity to do things together that  are really synergistic and would not only advance health, but also show how we can do things together in ways that benefit our two nations,” Kolars said. “The world is looking for examples of ways we co-create together. We have a chance to shine a light on how we can work together in a positive way for the world to see.”