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Dr. Hong to Head M. D. Anderson's Division of Cancer Medicine

Dr. Hong to Head M. D. Anderson's Division of Cancer Medicine
M. D. Anderson News Release 04/04/01

World-renowned medical oncologist Dr. Waun Ki Hong has been tapped to head The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center's largest clinical division. His selection followed a nationwide search that involved leading U.S. medical oncologists.

Dr. Hong will head the Division of Cancer Medicine, created last year along with the Division of Internal Medicine when the former Division of Medicine was divided into two units in order to provide clearer focus and coordination of resources for both areas.

The Division of Cancer Medicine includes 206 – or 35 percent – of the institution's faculty members in 13 departments. Oncologists in these departments provide front-line care for many of the 60,000 patients coming to M. D. Anderson Cancer Center each year.  Scientists in these departments lead the cancer research field in expanding the understanding of cancer biology and development of new approaches for cancer treatment and prevention.

"My challenge is very simple – it's raising the bar," Dr. Hong said. "The bar is already high. We are strong, but we can do better." Dr. Hong said his top priority is to facilitate translational research at M. D. Anderson. This will involve enhanced collaborations between laboratory-based investigators and clinical investigations, and development of stronger and even more productive research relationships between faculty members in the Division of Cancer Medicine and faculty from other divisions within the institution. 

"The Division of Cancer Medicine is the main engine of clinical and translational cancer research," said Dr. Hong, professor and holder of the Charles A. LeMaistre Distinguished Chair in Thoracic Oncology. "The engine has to be properly functioning. We need to ensure that patients coming to our division receive state-of-the-art medical care with cutting-edge therapeutic approaches."

Dr. Hong also plans to enhance career development of young investigators. He will bolster the division's Medical Oncology Fellowship Program with new mentoring programs and enhanced teaching sessions to attract the best young physicians in the world. He also wants to increase the opportunities for top physicians and scientists from abroad to spend time learning at M. D. Anderson and sharing their knowledge with our researchers. Dr. Hong has a strong background in mentoring junior faculty and plans to implement several programs to ensure the development of the highest quality junior faculty members.

Dr. Hong, author or co-author of more than 450 scientific publications, has successfully translated numerous key research findings into effective clinical care during his 25-year career in oncology. He was the first to demonstrate the efficacy of high-dose synthetic vitamin A compounds (retinoids) in reversing oral carcinogenesis and in preventing second primary tumors in patients successfully treated for cancers in the head and neck.

When Dr. Hong began his research in the early 1980’s, he was among a handful of researchers exploring the concept of chemoprevention, chemical interventions in the processes that lead to cancer.  Today, many scientists worldwide are pursuing chemoprevention studies for a number of diseases, in part because of his innovative work.

"Since joining M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in 1984, Dr. Hong has made many seminal contributions to cancer medicine through his pioneering research in development of therapeutic and preventive strategies for aerodigestive cancer," observed Dr. John Mendelsohn, M. D. Anderson president.

"He has brought together investigators from M. D. Anderson and other universities to create comprehensive National Cancer Institute-supported translational research programs focused on cancers of the head, neck and lung," Dr. Mendelsohn added. "His interdisciplinary translational research has worldwide public health implications for controlling and treating aerodigestive cancers."

Dr. Hong came to M. D. Anderson in 1984 as chief of the Section of Head and Neck Medical Oncology. He has chaired the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology since 1993 and will retain that position in addition to his new appointment. 

In 1996, Dr. Hong became the first physician from M. D. Anderson Cancer Center to receive an American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professorship, a lifetime honor presented in recognition of his distinguished career. During the past year, he has served as president-elect of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), an international scientific society of more than 17,000 laboratory and clinical cancer researchers. He assumed the presidency for 2001-2002 at the association’s annual meeting March 26.

Dr. Hong’s many honors for outstanding research achievements include the AACR’s Rosenthal Award in 1993, as well as the AACR's Joseph H. Burchenal Award and the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s most prestigious award, the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award, both given in 2000.


© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center