by Wong-Ho Chow, Ph.D.
Dr. Yu-Tang Gao, a longtime collaborator with DCEG, was honored in 2011 for his 55 years of dedication to public health research and practice and for his leadership in cancer research. An international symposium, Frontiers in Global Public Health: Challenges and Opportunities in Cancer Research in Developing Countries, was held at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China, in his honor.
In collaboration with DCEG investigators, Dr. Gao launched a series of case-control studies to systematically investigate the etiology of a variety of cancers in Shanghai. Most notable was a ground-breaking study that examined reasons for the relatively high incidence rates of lung cancer among Chinese women despite their extremely low prevalence of smoking. This study uncovered environmental determinants of lung cancer, notably mutagen-containing vapors from high-temperature wok cooking with rapeseed oil. Dr. Gao’s research also has highlighted the importance of nutrition in cancer development, suggesting that certain dietary practices, such as drinking green tea, may lower the risk of certain cancers, whereas obesity increases the risk of other cancers.
Dr. Gao also was instrumental in developing prospective cohort studies with banked biological samples for rapid testing of emerging etiologic hypotheses. Of special interest is an ongoing cohort study of 75,000 Shanghai women that Dr. Gao has been conducting in collaboration with DCEG and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. This study has generated a series of major epidemiological findings and has contributed data and biological samples to countless international consortial efforts. Dr. Gao’s collaborative research also has provided extraordinary opportunities for training a new generation of scientists in China, in the United States, and around the world.
Several DCEG investigators helped plan the symposium and gave presentations to mark the celebration. The participants included Ann W. Hsing, Ph.D., of the Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch, and Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch investigators Wong-Ho Chow, Ph.D.; Bu-Tian Ji, M.D., Dr.P.H.; and Qing Lan, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.
At the plenary session, Dr. Gao was presented with a congratulatory letter from DCEG Director Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., M.D., and with a DCEG Special Recognition Award. In his letter, Dr. Fraumeni noted, “Dr. Gao’s vision and leadership in cancer epidemiology have paved the way in establishing international partnerships that are continuing to thrive and advance the global agenda in cancer research. We are grateful to him for the friendship and goodwill that have brought our scientists and our nations together in the fight against cancer.”
Dr. Zhi-Jie Zheng, Dean of the School of Public Health at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, announced the university’s creation of an endowed Professor Yu-Tang Gao lectureship as a tribute to Dr. Gao’s monumental contributions to cancer research and education.