The “stabilizing” summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the APEC leaders gathering in San Francisco last month has opened a “small window” between the two for collaboration in the fight against cancer, China policy expert and Australia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Kevin Rudd told a forum held at the Asia Society in New York on Friday.
“We must acknowledge the delicate nature of US-China relationship and geopolitics and the small window of opportunity opened by the stabilizing APEC summit between Presidents Biden and Xi,” said Rudd, who is also president emeritus of the Asia Society.
“It’s now up to us to build bridges and accelerate international clinical trials to save precious lives,” Rudd said.
Rudd spoke by video at the inaugural Cure4Cancer Conference hosted by the Asia Society on December 1. The event was held jointly with the 6th annual symposium organized by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the Chinese Thoracic Oncology Group of China, which have worked together on cancer research.
Fewer than 5% of approximately 20 million cancer patients per year around the world have access to clinical trials of new drugs; increased participation in trials and regulatory harmonization could save 1-2 million lives globally each year, experts say.
“Global coordination has demonstrative public health benefits,” especially since many shared public health challenges are soluble with modern medicine, said Rudd, the former Prime Minister of Australia and author of the book, “The Avoidable War: The Dangers of A Catastrophic Conflict Between the U.S. and Xi Jinping’s China.”
“Most notably with China’s absence, we miss the leverage of the world’s largest cancer patient population accounting for more than 30% of global cancer deaths and as a critical partner in our collective endeavors to accelerate clinical trials,” he said.
A hopeful sign in collaboration, Rudd noted, was China’s State Council – or cabinet – approval of new guidelines this year that support foreign investment in the biopharmaceutical field with a clear focus on cancer.
“We’ve moved a long way to encourage China’s participation in international regulatory harmonization,” he said. “China’s recognition of biopharmaceuticals as a collaborative sphere opens doors to unprecedented possibilities for innovation,” he said.
Yi-Long Wu, president of the Chinese Thoracic Oncology Group, or CTONG, was among a delegation of a dozen mainland Chinese speakers that traveled to New York for the event. China has the talent and will to boost its role in international collaboration to fight cancer, Wu said. John Oyler, founder and CEO of biotechnology firm BeiGene, highlighted the lengthy and costly process for trials today and the benefits of expanded international participation.
Underscoring the global reach of the event, the NORTH Foundation announced during the Cure4Cancer Conference that philanthropists Kay Van Norton Poche and Gregory Poche donated $20 million to help establish a cancer clinical trials research and development center at Royal North Shore Hospital and North Shore Private Hospital in Sydney. This will be established in partnership with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, or MSK, in New York.
Caroline Kennedy, U.S. Ambassador to Australia, welcomed the donation and lauded the collaboration between the North Shore campus and MSK, drawing inspiration from her late father President John Kennedy’s moonshot and noting that this international initiative will contribute to President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot that aims to reduce the cancer death rate by half within 25 years and improve the lives of people with cancer and cancer survivors.
Other speakers included Lisa DeAngelis, chief physician executive at MSK; Shelly Anderson, hospital president at MSK; Bob Li, physician ambassador to China and Asia-Pacific at MSK; Jing Qian, co-founder and managing director of the Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis; Debra Eisenman, chief operating officer of Asia Society; Catharine Young, assistant director of Cancer Moonshot engagement and policy at the White House; Richard Pazdur, director of the Oncology Center of Excellence at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Isabel Mestres, CEO of City Cancer Challenge; Jennifer Dent, CEO of BIO Ventures for Global Health; Paulo Nigro, CEO of Hospital Sirio-Libanes in Brazil; Stephen Clarke, professor of medicine at University of Sydney in Australia; Lillian Leigh, advocacy chair at Thoracic Oncology Group Australasia; and Victoria Wolodzko Smart, senior vice president of mission at Susan G. Komen.
David Fredrickson, executive vice president of oncology business at AstraZeneca; Tolulope Adewole, managing director of Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority Advanced Medical Services; Orville Schell, Director of Asia Society Center for U.S.-China Relations; and Terri Conneran, founder and director of KRAS Kickers also participated.
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