Stand Up To Cancer notes the passing of Waun Ki Hong, MD
LOS ANGELES (Jane 4, 2019) – Waun Ki Hong, MD, renowned medical oncologist, physician-scientist, innovator and a scientific leader of Stand Up To Cancer, died Jan. 2, 2019, at age 76. Dr. Hong served as a member of the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) since its inception in 2008, as well as chairperson or member of SU2C research team review committees. Dr. Hong is noted for his work in the fields of cancer prevention, precision treatment, and for advancing the field of translational cancer medicine.
Born in South Korea in 1942, Dr. Hong earned his medical degree from Yonsei University School of Medicine in 1967, then served in the Republic of Korea Air Force as a flight surgeon during the Vietnam War. He went on to do his residency at the Boston Veterans Affairs Medical Center and became a Medical Oncology Fellow at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He joined MD Anderson in 1984 as chief of the Section of Head and Neck Medical Oncology and became chair of the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology in 1993 and would go on to become head of the Division of Cancer Medicine from 2001 until he retired in 2014.
Dr. Hong’s accomplishments not only helped change the standard of cancer care but also influenced the Stand Up To Cancer research portfolio. Among his numerous contributions to cancer research and treatment, Dr. Hong led clinical trials which showed that the combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy was an effective alternative to surgery for cancer of the larynx. That approach dramatically improved the quality of life for many patients, and his expertise contributed to SU2C’s continuing focus on exploring combinatorial cancer treatments.
Dr. Hong’s work also helped establish the concept of chemoprevention—using available treatments to prevent cancer, specifically lung cancer, from occurring in high-risk patients. He conducted a clinical trial to treat precancerous lesions that established proof of principle for preventing cancer by treating its precursor growths—work which led the way to SU2C’s Cancer Interception efforts.
Dr. Hong conceived and organized a unique clinical trial engaging several pharmaceutical companies, which used biopsies to identify molecular targets in patients’ tumors, and then matched treatment to the appropriate targeted therapies, then a new field of therapy.
Dr. Hong is also noted for his mentorship of hundreds of young investigators.
“We remember Dr. Hong as a physician-scientist of the highest integrity,” said Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, chair of the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee, Nobel laureate and Institute Professor of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “He shared his expertise generously, contributed extraordinary authority to all his efforts, and was an impactful influence on the first decade of SU2C science accomplishments, always with his quiet good humor and grace.”
Over his decade of service to SU2C, Dr. Hong specifically supported the SU2C–American Cancer Society Lung Cancer Dream Team; the SU2C–LUNGevity–American Lung Association Lung Cancer Interception Dream; the SU2C–Cancer Research UK–Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team; the SU2C–Farrah Fawcett Foundation HPV Research Team; the SU2C–Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Translational Research Team; and SU2C Catalyst® teams, with support from Merck.
Dr. Hong received the highly prestigious American Cancer Society Medal of Honor in Clinical Research and was an elected member of National Academy of Medicine. He was appointed to the National Cancer Advisory Board, and in 1996, became the first MD Anderson physician to receive an American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professorship, a lifetime honor presented in recognition of his distinguished career. In 2001-2002, he served as president of the American Association for Cancer Research. His many honors for outstanding achievements in clinical research and patient care include the AACR’s Joseph H. Burchenal and the Rosenthal Foundation Awards; and the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s most prestigious award, the David A. Karnofsky Award.
Dr. Hong is survived by his wife, Mi Hwa, his two sons, and four grandchildren.