In Remembrance of Dr. Waun Ki Hong

The Asian Fund for Cancer Research remembers and recognizes the contributions of our esteemed scientific advisory board member, Waun Ki Hong, M.D., F.A.C.P., D.M.Sc. (Hon.), who passed away on 2 January, 2019, at the age of 76.

Born in 1942 in what is now South Korea, amidst World War II and before the 1945 political division of the Korean peninsula, Waun Ki Hong obtained his medical degree from the Yonsei University School of Medicine. After fulfilling a stint as a flight surgeon in the military of his fledgling country, the Republic of Korea, he moved to the U.S. in 1970 and completed his medical residency at the Boston Veterans Affairs Medical Center (BVAMC), followed by a fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He would later return to serve as chief of medical oncology at BVAMC and was a faculty member at both the Boston University and Tufts University Schools of Medicine before in 1984 joining the University of Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Center. There, his leadership roles stretching over three decades included that of vice provost, head of the Division of Cancer Medicine and Samsung Distinguished Chair in Cancer Medicine. Among his many positions outside of MD Anderson, Dr. Hong served as president of the American Association for Cancer Research, board of directors member of the American Society for Clinical Oncology and a funded scientist of the National Foundation for Cancer Research for 15 years. He authored more than 685 scientific publications and served on the editorial boards of at least 17 scientific journals.

Dr. Hong made no fewer than three seminal contributions in the field of cancer medicine. First, he was the study co-chairman of the landmark U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs cooperative laryngeal preservation trial using induction chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which changed the way that laryngeal cancer is managed and served as a model for organ preservation for many other types of cancers. Second, he established proof of principle that chemoprevention works in patients with head and neck cancer, thereby helping define a new discipline in cancer prevention. Third, he was the main architect and principal investigator for BATTLE (Biomarker-integrated Approaches of Targeted Therapy for Lung Cancer Elimination), the first successful biopsy-driven trial in lung cancer, opening up a new paradigm of personalized cancer therapy for solid tumors.

Less than a year after having been named a Giant of Cancer Care, AFCR is particularly saddened by the death, too soon, of a brilliant cancer physician and scientist.