Head of the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology
Grayer Family Chair
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York
For pioneering novel applications of cancer genomics and circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) for early cancer detection as well as prognosis and recurrence prediction, and for his groundbreaking work involving immune checkpoint blockade in DNA mismatch repair-deficient (MMR-deficient) tumors.
In 2017, the AACR instituted the AACR-Waun Ki Hong Award for Outstanding Achievement in Translational and Clinical Cancer Research to recognize a worthy cancer researcher who has conducted highly meritorious translational and clinical cancer research anywhere in the world, and who has not yet reached 51 years of age at the time of award presentation. The award was established in recognition of the extraordinary contributions that Waun Ki Hong, MD, FAACR, made to advances in cancer research, cancer care, and cancer prevention during his long-standing and brilliant career as a physician-scientist.
As a leading authority in solid tumor oncology, Diaz has focused his career on developing novel genomic approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. In landmark studies, he demonstrated the potential clinical utility of analyzing ctDNA to detect tumor mutations in the blood, showing that ctDNA could be used to not only track the emergence of mutations conferring therapeutic resistance in patients receiving targeted therapy, but also predict tumor recurrence after surgery. He has also applied his expertise to expand the use of immunotherapeutics such as immune checkpoint inhibitors in the treatment of patients with cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of pembrolizumab for advanced MMR-deficient cancers arising in any location in the body was a direct result of Diaz’s research, which showed curative responses in the majority of metastatic patients with MMR-deficient cancers. Diaz is currently working to harness his cancer genetics knowledge to develop a “molecular Pap test” for the early detection of ovarian and endometrial cancers.