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Feature | 23 August 2018

Collaborating against cancer

Convening for the fourth year, Japanese and Taiwanese academics continue to push forward together to tackle critical medical science issues.

In May 2018, leading cancer research academics from across Japan and Taiwan joined forces at the 4th ARO-Japan and TSPA/TCTC-Taiwan Workshop, in Taipei. Since they began in 2015, the workshops have fostered cooperation between them on burning questions in medical science. This year, the workshop returned to its focus on the latest developments in cancer research, specifically in translational studies — a branch of discovery that aims to move scientific discoveries from the lab into practical, innovative treatments for the clinic. “We hope, through this meeting, that we can cement even closer collaboration,” said Pan-Chyr Yang from National Taiwan University, in his opening address.

Japan-Taiwan ARO Workshops: Over the years

The first of the annual series of workshops was held in Tokyo, to showcase the infrastructure and leading research activities of Japan and Taiwan, and promote collaboration between them. Subsequent events focused on topics such as translational cancer research, neurodegenerative  and regenerative medicine — a key area for Japan’s aging society.

At the forefront of collaborative research

This year’s symposium comprised two main sessions, with the first focusing on the applications of big data to patient care and improvement to treatment development. The second centred around treatment strategy — with twelve presentations covering cancer registry studies, rare tumours, the development of genomic medicine, and investigations into specific cancers, such as breast, lung, and colon.

Toshirou Nishida from the Japanese National Cancer Center Hospital provided a great example of data leveraged to improve patient outcomes. Nishida, and his colleague Kan Yonemori, aim to use rare cancer registry data to reveal the extent of rare gastrointestinal tumors in Japan. He hopes, through strong collaboration, to expand their study into other East Asian countries.

Two breast cancer presentations discussed ongoing collaborative trials that tackle questions faced in clinical practice. The first, presented by the National Taiwan University Hospital and College of Medicine’s Sung-Hsin Kuo, is a multicentre trial trying to find the best way to treat patients whose cancer is unlikely to return after treatment, in an effort to reduce unnecessary irradiation. Following this, Kyoto University’s Eiji Suzuki discussed how his team from across the Kyoto Breast Cancer Network is investigating immune therapy for treatment-resistant cases.

In another example of collaboration fuelling discovery, Akio Shiomi, from the Shizuoka Cancer Center Hospital, Japan, revealed how joining forces with international institutions is helping his team study the optimal length of bowel removal in colon cancer surgery, taking into consideration nearby lymph nodes and cancer status.

Closing the workshop, Academia Sinica’s Andrew Wang thanked Taiwan’s “Japanese friends, for organizing such a wonderful delegation,” and stated his admiration at the leaps taken in therapeutics and diagnostics. As Wang outlined plans for the 5th workshop which will focus on regenerative medicine, The ARO Council’s director, Yoichi Nakanishi, remarked on the “tremendous progress” seen in the last four years.

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