Waun Ki Hong

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Waun Ki Hong (1942 – January 2, 2019) was Professor of Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he served as Chairman of the Department of Thoracic/Head & Neck Medical Oncology from 1993-2005 and as Head of the Division of Cancer Medicine from 2001–2014. He was also an American Cancer Society Professor and the Samsung Distinguished University Chair in Cancer Medicine emeritus.


Early Life

A national and international leader in medical oncology, he trained clinical oncologists throughout the world and participated in creating national cancer policy through the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB), the US FDA Oncologic Drug Advisory Committee, the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors, the American Society of Clinical Oncology Board of Directors, and as past president of the American Association for Cancer Research. He was an elected member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies and an elected Inaugural Fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Academy.


He died at his home in California on January 2, 2019 at the age of 76. [1]

Research Interests

Hong’s specialty was medical oncology, with expertise in the areas of molecular therapeutics, cancer prevention, clinical investigation, and personalized targeted therapy.

His research has affected the following areas:

Organ preservation

Hong and his colleagues demonstrated the efficacy of combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy for laryngeal cancer without sacrificing the human larynx. He served as co-study chair for the Veterans Administration Cooperative laryngeal preservation trial, which affected the quality of life for advanced laryngeal cancer patients who previously had no other options except total removal of the voice box. This trial also served as a model for organ preservation in many other cancers such as bladder, breast, and anus. [2] [3]


Hong demonstrated that high-dose retinoids can reverse oral carcinogenesis—a proof of principle that has led to additional ongoing studies in the area of cancer chemoprevention. [4] [5] [6] [7]

Personalized Targeted Therapy

Hong initiated a translational research program at MD Anderson Cancer Center using molecularly-targeted approaches for the treatment of lung cancer. He led the BATTLE (Biomarker-integrated Approaches of Targeted Therapy for Lung Cancer Elimination) trial, which was the first successful prospective randomized trial based on the analysis of molecular findings from real-time biopsies to assign individualized targeted treatment. This trial laid out the groundwork for worldwide development of personalized targeted treatments through the use of tumor profiling. [8]


Hong has played a role in shaping public policy in the United States through his service as chair of the Prevention, Clinical and Therapeutic Subcommittee for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) External Board of Scientific Advisors (BSA); the NCI Translational Research Working Group (TRWG); the U.S. FDA Oncologic Drug Advisory Committee (ODAC); and as chair of the Subcommittee of Clinical Investigations for the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB).

His contributions to cancer research have been recognized through national and international awards, including the Raymond Bourgine Award and the Claude Jacquillat Award from the International Congress on Anti-Cancer Treatment (ICACT) in France and the Ho-Am Prize from the Samsung Foundation in Korea. From the AACR, he received the Joseph A. Burchenal and Rosenthal Foundation Awards and the AACR/Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation Award for Excellence in Cancer Prevention Research. From the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) he received the David Karnofsky Award and the American Cancer Society Award. He also was selected to serve as a member of the ASCO Board of Directors. In 2012, he received the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor for Outstanding Clinical Research. [9]

Hong obtained his medical degree from the Yonsei University School of Medicine, Korea, and completed his medical residency at the Boston Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, followed by a fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He served as Chief of Medical Oncology at the Boston VA Medical Center and was a faculty member at both the Boston University School of Medicine and the Tufts University School of Medicine before joining MD Anderson Cancer Center in 1984. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Medical Oncology, and a past member of the Subspecialty Board on Medical Oncology. [10]


Hong has authored more than 685 articles in prestigious scientific journals and edited 11 books. He was a founding editor of Head and Neck Cancer: A Multidisciplinary Approach and Editor-in-Chief of Holland-Frei Cancer Medicine, 8th Edition. He has served on the editorial boards of 17 scientific journals.

Selected Peer-Reviewed Original Research Articles

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  1. MD Anderson notes passing of Waun Ki Hong – innovator, mentor, colleague
  2. Hong, Waun Ki; The Department of Veterans Affairs Laryngeal Cancer Study Group (June 13, 1991). "Induction chemotherapy plus radiation compared with surgery plus radiation in patients with advanced laryngeal cancer". New England Journal of Medicine. 324 (24): 1685–90. doi:10.1056/NEJM199106133242402. PMID   2034244.
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/1989/10/08/magazine/the-cancer-war-a-major-advance.html?src=pm&pagewanted=1&pagewanted=print
  4. Hong, WK; Endicott J; Itri LM; Doos W; Batsakis JG; Bell R; Fofonoff S; Byers R; Atkinson EN; Vaughan C. (Dec 11, 1986). "13-cis-retinoic acid in the treatment of oral leukoplakia". New England Journal of Medicine. 315 (24): 1501. doi:10.1056/NEJM198612113152401. PMID   3537787.
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/20/us/health-scientists-say-an-acne-drug-can-prevent-a-type-of-cancer.html?pagewanted=2&pagewanted=print
  6. https://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/20/science/vital-signs-remedies-green-tea-without-the-taste-of-old-socks.html?action=click&module=Search&region=searchResults&mabReward=relbias%3Ar&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollection%3DHomepage%26t%3Dqry794%23%2FWaun+Ki+Hong+MD&pagewanted=print
  7. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,971253,00.html?loginfailure=true
  8. Hong WK, Kim ES, Herbst RS, Wistuba II, Lee JJ, Blumenschein GR Jr, Tsao A, Stewart DJ, Hicks ME, Erasmus J Jr, Gupta S, Alden CM, Liu S, Tang X, Khuri FR, Tran HT, Johnson BE, Heymach JV, Mao L, Fossella F, Kies MS, Papadimitrakopoulou V, Davis SE, Lippman SM (June 2011). "The BATTLE trial: personalizing therapy for lung cancer". Cancer Discovery. 1 (1): 44–53. doi:10.1158/2159-8274.CD-10-0010. PMC   4211116 . PMID   22586319.
  9. Hong, Waun Ki. "American Cancer Society Honors Waun Ki Hong for outstanding clinical research". MD Anderson Cancer Center. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  10. "Waun Ki Hong Obituary". www.aacr.org. Retrieved 2019-01-13.