Memorial Sloan Kettering Collaborates with Global Community on the Bloomberg New Economy International Cancer Coalition to Accelerate and Expand Access to New Therapies and Clinical Trials

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Dr. Bob Li

Dr. Bob Li

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) has joined the Bloomberg New Economy International Cancer Coalition, a multiyear coalition to foster international clinical trial collaboration with the goal of accelerating access, development, and approvals of effective cancer prevention and treatments that could help save millions. Coalition members include the Asia Society, several academic partners, and global biopharmaceutical companies.

The Coalition was discussed at the fourth annual Bloomberg New Economy Forum (NEF) in Singapore on November 16–19. The event convened more than 300 heads of state, global CEOs, and public sector leaders who exchanged ideas to help address the issues of inequality, public health outcomes, infrastructure investment, the future of technology, and climate change.

Comprising nearly two dozen organizations from the U.S., China, Japan, and Europe, the Bloomberg International Cancer Coalition will be co-chaired by Kevin Rudd, President and CEO of the Asia Society and former Prime Minister of Australia, and Stefan Oelrich, Member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and President of its Pharmaceuticals division. Coalition members will work together to expand international clinical trials, provide a platform to engage with regulators, and raise public awareness among patients about international cancer trials.

The Need for Cooperation

The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the need for international cooperation to stop the spread of the virus and deploy vaccines. Likewise, accelerating cancer research is not something that one institution can achieve on its own. International collaboration is essential to continue delivering breakthrough therapies.

In fact, the average development timeline for a cancer drug is 9.4 years, significantly affecting the speed it takes for drugs to reach patients and help treat and cure cancer.  

“Clinical trials represent the critical step of translating scientific discovery to saving lives, but this is a long, expensive, and arduous scientific and regulatory process,” said Dr. Bob Li, Medical Oncologist, MSK’s Physician Ambassador to China and Asia-Pacific, and a member of the Bloomberg International Cancer Coalition. “To realize the potential synergistic impact of international clinical trials in accelerating cancer cures in this lifetime, a coordinated multi-stakeholder global effort is required. This requires broad consensus among academia, industry, government regulatory agencies, and patients working together.”

Despite the crucial purpose clinical trials serve in translating science to care, only 2% to 8% of cancer patients are enrolled in clinical trials globally. Tackling this challenge will be a key part of the Coalition efforts to make it easier for patients, especially a more diverse pool of individuals, to participate in trials.

An Opportunity Between the US and China

The Coalition will focus specifically on collaboration between the US and China, as cancer is one of the leading causes of death in both countries. Cancer is responsible for 10 million deaths globally every year, so there exists a major opportunity to advance cancer collaboration between these two countries. As shown in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, this type of global cooperation on clinical trials has already demonstrated the potential for lifesaving advances, cutting approval times by seven to eight years.

“The fight against cancer is a common human struggle that transcends nations, race, ethnicity, and geographic and socioeconomic division,” said Dr. Li. “Our aim is to focus on patients. Our approach is driven by science, and by collaboration, we hope to make a difference to people’s lives.”

Dr. Li also recently spoke at the 2021 Forbes China Healthcare Summit about the need to fight cancer internationally with teams collaborating across political boundaries.

Next Steps

The Coalition is already hitting the ground running, working toward a recommendation paper, “Reimagining Clinical Cancer Trials,” and collaborating with stakeholders in the cancer space to implement cancer trials that are more diverse, patient-centric, and accessible to underserved populations. The Coalition is also engaging with government agencies and regulators to help harmonize an international regulatory environment to bring new cancer treatments, screenings, and prevention to patients faster.

Through Project Orbis, an initiative of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE), the Coalition will benefit from the initiative’s framework for submission and review of cancer treatments simultaneously across several countries, speeding up the treatment approval process and diversifying access to clinical trials. In May, sotorasib (LumakrasTM), a drug to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer, was approved as part of Project Orbis. MSK and Dr. Li led the clinical trials.