MD Anderson researcher named AACR’s Margaret Foti Award recipient

Waun Ki Hong, M.D., professor of Thoracic Head & Neck Medical Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has been selected as recipient of this year’s Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

The award will be presented April 17 at the AACR’s annual meeting in New Orleans.

Hong, professor of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, former head of the Division of Cancer Medicine and the Samsung distinguished university chair in cancer medicine emeritus, is the 10th scientist to receive the prestigious award and the second recipient from MD Anderson. John Mendelsohn, M.D., professor of Genomic Medicine and former MD Anderson president also was honored with the award.

“Dr. Hong’s seminal contributions to cancer science make him extremely worthy of this coveted award,” said Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “I congratulate Ki on this honor, which recognizes his groundbreaking work in organ-sparing cancer treatment, chemoprevention and personalized cancer therapy. He truly is a gifted leader who has transformed cancer care for patients at MD Anderson and around the world.”

Hong, who established the Biomarker-Based Approaches of Targeted Therapy for Lung Cancer Elimination (BATTLE) clinical trial for lung cancer, an unprecedented effort to match treatment to tumor characteristics, is one of the founders of cancer chemoprevention research and pioneered a new approach for cancer treatment – the possibility that it can be prevented or delayed.

In other studies, Hong showed for the first time that genetic damage persists for many years after smoking cessation and developed ways to genetically identify former smokers at highest risk for lung cancer.

In the 1980s, Hong conceived and led a series of landmark clinical trials showing that patients with laryngeal cancer fared just as well when treated with chemotherapy and radiation as those who underwent surgery that ultimately resulted in removing the larynx and losing the ability to speak. His research has enabled thousands of laryngeal cancer patients to avoid radical surgery and enjoy a better quality of life, eradicating the cancer while preserving the ability to speak and swallow.

“I am very humbled to receive this prestigious award because many other scientists deserve to receive it more than I do,” said Hong. “I accept this award on behalf of my research collaborators and all the patients who participated in many pivotal clinical trials. I am extremely grateful for my colleagues’ and institution’s strong support that enabled me to carry out clinical trials successfully.”

Hong joined MD Anderson in 1984. He is past AACR president and has served on the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) board, the National Cancer Institute board of scientific advisors, and the National Cancer advisory board. He has won numerous international awards as well as major honors from AACR and ASCO. In addition, he was awarded the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor in 2012.

The Margaret Foti Award, established in 2007, is named for former AACR Chief Executive Officer, Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D., and recognizes an individual whose leadership and extraordinary achievements have made a major impact in cancer research.

According to the AACR, the award recognizes “a true champion of cancer research, an individual who embodies the sustained commitment of Margaret Foti to the prevention and cure of cancer.” The award honors achievements such as contributions to the acceleration of cancer research, raising national or international awareness of cancer research, or other demonstrations of a sustained commitment to the conquest of cancer.