Introduction

The Shanghai Cancer Institute (SCI) was founded in 1958. On the approval of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China, the State Key Laboratory of Oncogenes and Related Genes (SKLORG) was established in Shanghai Cancer Institute in 1985. It was the first cancer research State Key Laboratory and one of the leading Laboratories of Life Sciences in China.

At the beginning, the SKLORG identified quite a few important oncogenes, such as Ras and Myc, in the liver, playing a leading role in cancer research worldwide. However, Professor Jianren Gu, a member of Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) and the founder of the SKLORG, realized that identification of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes was not the final goal in cancer research. Scientists need to study the functions of those key genes and their related genes. Therefore, from 1998 to 2003, researchers in the SKLORG had been constructing a cDNA library of cancer-related genes at a large scale and transfected more than 20,000 cDNA clones into cell lines to examine their functions. Originally, they found about 2,000 genes could affect the behaviors of cancer cell growth and the results were published on PNAS in 2004. Later, Professor Gu proposed the concept of systemic biology and systemic regulation network in cancer development. He believes that cancer is a whole body and systemic disease, which advanced the cancer research area with this idea.

To date, the SKLORG has successfully passed the last five examinations from the National Science and Technology Committee, which happened in 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011. In 2003, the SCI was approved by Chinese Ministry of Education to be co-sponsored by Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Public Health and Shanghai Jiaotong University, and in 2010, the SCI was affiliated to Shanghai Jiaotong University Renji Hospital, which facilitated the translational study on cancer research to a deeper extent.

Currently, Professor Wei-Qiang Gao, a member of National “Thousand Talents” Program, is the director of SKLORG and Professor Shengli Yang, a member of CAE, is the president of the Academic Committee of the Laboratory, which consists of 13 famous scientists in molecular biology, cell biology, pathology and immunology.

There are total 62 researchers in the State Laboratory of Oncogenes and Related Genes, including 42 scientists and 20 research assistants. Among them, 57 are PhD holders,4 are masters and 3 are members of Chinese Academy of Engineering. The SKLORG is provided with 153 sets of up-to-date experimental equipments (>100,000 RMB/set), and 6,800 square meters area for doing research.

The SKLORG’s mission is to investigate systemic biology and systemic regulations in cancer development. The laboratory has focused on oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes and other genes related to tumorigenesis and tumor progression. Its goals are to investigate the molecular mechanisms of cancer development and progression, and explore new approaches for cancer diagnosis, prevention and treatment.

Over the past 5 years, the SKLORG has successfully obtained more than 208 major grants with 175 million RMB, including 17 National Grants of Basic Research (“973” program), 3 National Grants of Basic Research and Development Program of China (“863” program), 10 National Key Projects (e.g. National Five Year Plan), 91 regular grants from National Foundation of Natural Science in China, and more than 60 projects supported by Shanghai Municipality. In addition, the laboratory has won 5 awards from Shanghai Municipality, published 534 research articles (488 SCI articles), obtained 76 national approved patents and 8 international approved patents, and trained 72 Ph.D. students and 69 master students.