National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
January 26, 2010 • Volume 7 / Number 2

Community Update

Chinese and American Scientists Meet to Discuss Environmental Causes of Cancer

Earlier this month, researchers from science and public health organizations in China and the United States, including NCI, met in Guangzhou, China, to discuss specific research goals and possibilities for collaboration in cancer epidemiology, environmental monitoring, and tobacco control, and how to foster translational research in these areas.

View from the Great Wall obscured by smog View from the Great Wall obscured by smog

“The meeting focused on adult lung and childhood cancers,” explained Dr. Gary Ellison, an epidemiologist in NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS), who led the development of the scientific meeting agenda for NCI. He noted that in addition to the scientific presentations, representatives from Chinese and U.S. funding agencies presented existing mechanisms to support new collaboration in the scientific areas addressed at the meeting. While NCI has supported several China-related research projects, he explained, this workshop will help define scientific priorities related to environmental pollution and cancer with the goal of expanding and creating additional opportunities for mutual scientific cooperation.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which hosted the meeting January 5–8, is a basic research organization that includes more than 90 institutions across China that are engaged in physical, computational, engineering, and life sciences research. In addition to members of CAS, Chinese speakers at the meeting represented the national and local centers for disease control, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and several top universities.

Participants from the United States included representatives from several institutes at NIH, including NCI, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Fogarty International Center, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and extramural NIH-funded researchers.

Dr. Ellison noted that workshop participants represented a wide variety of scientific disciplines capable of addressing the many scientific issues associated with environmental pollution and cancer.

The Ministry of Health of the P.R. China has observed that pollutants such as toxic occupational hazards may be contributing to increasing rates of certain cancers in China. Dr. Julie Schneider, who leads NCI’s Office of China Cancer Research Programs in Beijing, noted that rising environmental challenges and increasing capacity in science and technology make it an opportune time to establish new cooperation with Chinese researchers in the area of environment and cancer.

Lung cancer is now the most common type of cancer in China. Although smoking incidence is low among Chinese women, lung cancer rates are still high in this group. Tobacco control experts at the meeting emphasized the importance of continuing to support research addressing strategies to keep the rates of smoking low among Chinese women, as tobacco companies may increase marketing efforts that target them. Other delegates suggested initiating new efforts to understand how indoor pollution, such as that created from cooking oils, might help explain the relatively high rates of lung cancer in Chinese women.

“International studies are instrumental in moving the science of environmental epidemiology forward,” noted Dr. Robert Croyle, director of DCCPS, who delivered opening remarks at the meeting. “These collaborative efforts can provide unique opportunities to study populations and exposures that do not exist in the United States to generate discoveries that help cancer patients both domestically and abroad.”