Q&A: Henry C. Fung, MD

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Fung-Henry2Henry C. Fung, MD, a nationally recognized leader in hematologic oncology, has joined the Fox Chase faculty to oversee an expansion of the hematologic malignancy program. Fung, who came to Fox Chase from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, serves as clinical leader of the blood cancers program and the hematologic oncology service line and a professor of medical oncology, as well as director of the Temple University Hospital Bone Marrow Transplant Program. 

Fox Chase NOW chatted with Dr. Fung about what he hopes to achieve at Fox Chase and the future he sees for the field of hematologic oncology.

Q: How did you decide on a career in hematology?

A: This is one specialty that’s rapidly translating bench work into patient care. It’s not just basic science, it’s not just patient care, and it’s fascinating. I love the hematologic morphology. It’s the cell structure. You look at the cells and can see what’s normal and abnormal. It’s a field that’s been moving rapidly over the past few decades. In particular, it’s a leader for oncology. Chemotherapy and stem cell transplant all started with hematology.

Q: What has been the highlight of your career to date?

A: At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, I built a world-class bone marrow transplant program that has the best survival for patients in the state of Illinois and high quality of care. I also developed a radioimmunotherapy protocol incorporated into stem cell transplantation a few years ago that has been moved to multiple phase III studies worldwide.

Another highlight is my expertise in Hodgkin’s lymphoma, again with transplant. I developed a double transplant program protocol at City of Hope in Los Angeles, in collaboration with Loyola Medical Center in Chicago. It was published and then became a cooperative group study. From that work, a national study has just been completed.

Most importantly, I am proud to have trained many new generations of transplanters. Fellows become attending physicians who become directors of programs. I think this has the biggest impact on the future, training the new generation of transplant doctors.

Q: How did you decide to come to Fox Chase?

A: Under the leadership of Dr. Richard Fisher, Fox Chase is going to build one of the best hematologic oncology and bone marrow transplant programs in the country. It will be a world-class program. Fox Chase is one of the very few cancer research hospitals in the country and in the world that focus only on cancer patients. Its history of amazing clinical research and basic science research provides the infrastructure to help me develop a very successful program.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish at Fox Chase and on what will your research focus?

A: My goal is to build the best quality blood cancer and bone marrow transplant programs with the best possible outcomes for our patients. Nowadays, there are different stem cell sources for transplant — peripheral blood, bone marrow, cord blood — as well as multiple potential donors — matched sibling, unrelated, mismatched related (Haplo-identical) donors. The future of transplant is to identify the best donor and the best stem cell source for each patient in order to predict the best outcome.

Q: What can we hope to achieve in blood cancers in the next five years?

A: In the next five years, I hope that we can evolve personalized medicine for patients with blood cancer. If we have a better understanding of the genetics of the different types of blood cancer, we can select optimal treatments for patients. It is as important to eliminate the last cancer cells in the patient’s body as it is to not overtreat them in order to avoid acute and long-term complications. ■