A joint effort by the U.S. and China to fight cancer could represent a latter-day equivalent of the exchange of table tennis players between the two countries that led to a historic thaw in bilateral relations in the 1970s, former Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said at a global online healthcare summit organized by Forbes China on Saturday.
“Given all that’s going wrong in the U.S.-China relationship, we should turn cancer collaboration between China and the United States into the ping-ping diplomacy of the 21st century,” said Rudd, who is currently the CEO of the New York-headquartered Asia Society. “If those guys could play ping-ping to bring the U.S.-China relationship in from the cold back in the early 1970s, then I think we can do something similar now if we put our mind to it.”
The 2021 Forbes China Healthcare Summit was held to discuss the theme of “Advance the Global Fight Against Cancer and Achieve a Moonshot in the Post-Pandemic Era.” The event was held in strategic partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Forbes China is the Chinese-language edition of Forbes.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic this year has led to more than four million deaths globally in the past year and a half, cancer will likely kill far more people around the world this year– close to 10 million. Cancer patients are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 than others, and have more than double the COVID-19 death rate compared to COVID-19 patients without cancer.
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Rudd was hopeful about collaboration between the two countries because the fight again cancer “cuts right across political and ideological divides into people’s lives.”
“The great thing about the United States is that normally when politicians that are Republicans and Democrats don’t talk to each other anymore, they did talk to each other about this,” he said. “That is really important. The idea of actually being able to have a bipartisan project in the United States on cancer treatment and cancer drug research and a bilateral initiative between China and the United States — because it transcends politics at home and abroad – I think is an exceptionally exciting thing.”
Political leaders struck down by cancer in the two countries include former China Premier Zhou Enlai and former U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
Speaking by video, Forbes Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Steve Forbes recalled that Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice president, advanced collaboration within the U.S. on a “moonshot” to fight cancer following the death of his son Beau Biden from brain cancer in 2015. “We hope now as president, Joe Biden will be able to advance discussion about cancer and promote international collaboration,” Forbes said.
Other Forbes China Healthcare Summit participants included Moira Forbes, Executive Vice President, Forbes Media; Dr. Lisa DeAngelis, Physician-in-Chief and Chief Medical Officer, MSK; Dr. Richard Pazdur, Director of the Oncology Center of Excellence, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Wu Yi-Long, Chairman, Chinese Thoracic Oncology Group, or CTONG; and Dr. Bob Li, Physician Ambassador to China and Asia-Pacific at MSK.
Dr. Murray Brennan, Senior Vice President International, MSK; Dr. Angelo de Claro, Associate Director for Global Clinical Sciences, Oncology Center of Excellence, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Xin Li, Senior Vice President, Head of Product Development China, Roche; Dr. Andrea Myers, Global Program Head, Lung Cancer at Novartis; John Oyler, Co-Founder and CEO, BeiGene; Joy Yan, Chief Medical Officer, Ambrx; Andrew Zhu, Director, International Cancer Center, Jiahui International Hospital in Shanghai; Kenneth Manotti, Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer, MSK; Dr. Tyler Jacks, Break Through Cancer; Dr. Martin Murphy, Co-Founder CEO Roundtable on Cancer and Shanghai TuoXin Health Promotion Center; and Dr. Yibing Shan, Managing Director, Antidote Health Foundation, also participated.
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