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NCI Center for Global Health

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NCI's Mission for Cancer Research in China

The Center for Global Health (CGH) within the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) promotes, supports, and informs the development of cooperative research projects between U.S. and Chinese scientists, research teams, and institutions to accelerate progress against cancer. CGH works with the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NCI Offices and Divisions to increase awareness of the cancer research enterprise in China, and to build sustainable partnerships in the areas of basic, translational, and clinical research.

CGH Roles in China

In China, CGH has three primary functions:

  1. New Program Development
    • Assists the NCI leadership in identifying, prioritizing, and implementing new cancer research activities in China
    • Convenes workshops and conferences of U.S. and Chinese experts in scientific areas of high priority and mutual interest to build new collaboration in research and research training
    • Develops new guidelines, policies, resources, and mechanisms to support cooperation
  2. Outreach
    • Disseminates information about NCI priorities, plans, programs, policies, and initiatives to biomedical research leaders in China
    • Represents the NCI in China
  3. Facilitation
    • Identifies important cancer research initiatives in China
    • Identifies opportunities for collaboration in cancer research between the United States and China
    • Supports and enables scientific activities for key NCI and NIH staff visiting China

Cancer Burden in China

Each year, approximately 2.2 million Chinese citizens are diagnosed with cancer and 1.6 million die from the disease.1 A 2008 national mortality survey estimated that cancer accounts for 25% of deaths in urban areas of China and 21% of deaths in rural areas. According to a recent report by the Ministry of Health (MOH) of China, the growing burden of cancer in China is attributable to several factors, including an aging population, dietary changes, environmental hazards, infection with hepatitis B virus, and smoking.2 As in the United States, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death in China.3


In January of 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and China’s leader Deng Xiaoping signed the U.S.–China Agreement on Science and Technology, initiating government-to-government research and exchange programs that continue to this day. Later that year, the Director of the NCI visited the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS) to establish a framework for cancer research collaboration between the United States and China.

Over the past three decades, joint cancer research efforts between individual American and Chinese scientists have led to important discoveries, particularly in the areas of cancer epidemiology, occupational and environmental health, basic research, tobacco control, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). These cooperative efforts have provided unique opportunities to understand cancer disease mechanisms and quantify risk factors by providing access in China to:

  • Groups that are afflicted with cancers more common in China than in the United States
  • Populations that have been exposed to chemical and/or infectious agents that increase cancer risk
  • Cohorts with unique dietary habits that may affect susceptibility to cancer

In addition to promoting unique scientific discoveries, research cooperation with China provides other benefits such as encouraging large numbers of talented Chinese researchers to continue to work in U.S. laboratories. Training has been an important component of NCI activities in China and both countries have benefited from the exchange of scientific and technical talent over the past three decades. NCI serves as an important link between scientists in China and researchers and physicians in the United States, because the NCI intramural program has trained hundreds of Chinese-born scientists. Many of these individuals have returned to China to assume scientific leadership positions and oversee productive collaborations with U.S. researchers.

 1. Derived from International Agency for Research on Cancer, GLOBOCAN 2002 database.
2. WHO Country Health Information Profiles (2008).
3. GLOBOCAN 2002 combined data for males and females.