Partnering in a Free-Trade Zone

By Cathy Clark, APR - December 20, 2018

Seventy miles southeast of China’s capitol in Beijing, the future of the nation’s personalized cancer care is taking shape in the port city of Tianjin. Now, Moffitt Cancer Center has a physical presence there, as well as a continuing commitment to collaboration.

In late June 2018, a Moffitt team traveled to China’s International Personalized Cancer Center (IPCC) in Tianjin. The trip culminates years of planning and marks the beginning of future collaborations. A highlight of the trip gathered Moffitt representatives and their Chinese counterparts for a logo unveiling/opening ceremony of the IPCC – Moffitt Center for Collaboration.

“The Tianjin-Moffitt partnership initially was with Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital, a 2,400-bed hospital in downtown Tianjin. Moffitt continues to maintain relationships with this facility, and recent efforts have expanded to include the IPCC, a 1,000-bed cancer hospital located near the airport,” said Moffitt immunologist Sheng Wei, MD. Wei was among the founders of the partnership, which included Bill Dalton, PhD, MD, past president, CEO and center director of Moffitt Cancer Center and founder and CEO of M2Gen, Moffitt’s for-profit subsidiary.

The relationship is long-standing. This year, Moffitt celebrates 10 years of partnership with the Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital and five years of partnership with the IPCC.

Daniel Sullivan, MD, associate center director for Clinical Science at Moffitt, also oversees the Tianjin-Moffitt partnership. He says the Moffitt area within IPCC’s 1,000-bed cancer hospital will focus on personalized medicine education and training.

Since 2008, Moffitt and Tianjin have conducted joint research projects, and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, physician-scientists and research nurses from Tianjin have come to Moffitt for training.

Over the past several years, Moffitt and Tianjin have developed an even stronger collaborative relationship that furthers both of the institutions’ efforts in cancer education and research. A number of Tianjin’s fellows, postdocs and nurses travel to Tampa to meet with members of Moffitt to share information and learn from each other. Over the years, executives and faculty of both institutions have exchanged visits. During a 2016 visit, Moffitt President and CEO Dr. Alan List received the Hai River award for his leadership in accelerating this collaboration.

“The partnership focuses on several areas of education, including clinical research, nursing, basic research, and also we do a faculty exchange,” said Wei. “Postdocs come to Tampa for a two-year period and they work in a selected lab at Moffitt.” The exchange is mutually beneficial as the postdocs perform work at the cancer center while obtaining additional experience. Jointly authored scientific papers are submitted to journals for publication.

“Sheng [Dr. Sheng Wei] is really the glue that keeps this relationship together,” said Sullivan about Wei, who graduated from medical school in Tianjin and has been in the U.S. for 27 years.

“Initially, postdocs from Tianjin came to Moffitt for clinical research training,” said Sullivan. “Now other people are coming, not just those for research and clinical training, but administrators, IT people, and those coming for personalized medicine training.”

“This year, the partnership became more formal, and annually we will be sending teams of clinical doctors including a radiation oncologist, surgeon, medical oncologist and a few other medical professionals to Tianjin,” said Sullivan.

The first team to visit Tianjin specializes in thoracic oncology and included surgeon Robert Keenan, medical oncologist Jhanelle Gray, radiation oncologist Thomas Dilling, along with nurse researcher Tina Mason, Sullivan, Wei and Catie Wiernasz, RN, MSN.

A highlight of the 2018 visit was the first IPCC-Moffitt tumor board teleconference, focused on thoracic oncology. While the physician in China presented a case, a Moffitt radiologist in Tampa interpreted the CT scans. A Moffitt pathologist also was able to view the pathology slides that were projected on a screen in China.

The physicians are hoping that through the collaboration there will be more clinical trials at the IPCC taking advantage of newer compounds and technologies, including CAR T, while patients from Tianjin will be referred to Moffitt for specialized care.

“It is important to realize that the IPCC, the 1,000-bed cancer hospital, is located in the Tianjin Free Trade Zone. It is like a city, with about 500 businesses there, and because it is a free trade zone, we will be able to obtain faster approval to conduct clinical trials there,” said Sullivan.

Tianjin is located in the eastern part of north China and with a population of 16 million is the sixth largest city of the People’s Republic of China. Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital is the birthplace of oncology in China. It has a history of more than a hundred years and has become one of the most famous modernized cancer hospitals worldwide. It is also one of the largest bases for cancer prevention, treatment, training and research in China.

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Cathy Clark, APR Senior Managing Editor 813-745-1347 More Articles

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