A pioneer in translating laboratory discoveries into treatments for leukemia, Ching-Hon Pui, MD, is the chair of the Department of Oncology and the Fahad Nassar Al-Rashid Chair of Leukemia at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Since 1995, he has been director of the Hematological Malignancies Program for the St. Jude Cancer Center, and he has directed the St. Jude China Program since 1999. His work has directly raised survival rates for pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), enhanced patients’ quality of life, increased access to quality care and improved pediatric oncology training on a global scale.
Among his achievements, Dr. Pui developed a precision treatment approach that pushed the cure rate of ALL, the most common childhood cancer, to more than 90%, an unprecedented figure in the history of pediatric oncology. His fine-tuned approach allowed doctors to omit cranial irradiation, once a mainstay of treatment. Elimination of the devastating side effects of the irradiation ensured patients thrived with excellent quality of life once treatment had ended. In addition, Dr. Pui discovered a new, secondary form of acute myeloid leukemia caused by epipodophyllotoxins, a class of widely used chemotherapeutic agents in both pediatric and adult cancer care. He subsequently identified an optimal treatment approach to reduce the risk of this complication.
Dr. Pui is a passionate advocate for sharing his discoveries far beyond the hospital’s walls. He co-founded and continues to lead the Ponte di Legno ALL Study Group, which unites 15 major ALL research teams worldwide. This collective has contributed volumes to the understanding and treatment of high-risk leukemia subtypes—and raised cure rates in the process. For the past 30 years, Dr. Pui has developed clinical trials for children with ALL in Taiwan, resulting in some of the highest survival rates in Asia. What’s more, in 2003, Dr. Pui learned that fewer than 30% of pediatric ALL patients in rural China received treatment. Many of the children in the country do not finish treatment because of financial reasons. Dr. Pui developed a cost-effective ALL clinical trial in China. Based on that study, the country adopted an insurance plan that covers care for all children with ALL, as well as for those with other life-threatening diseases.
Dr. Pui has served as president of the Society of Hematologic Oncology, chair of the scientific advisory board for the VIVA Foundation for Children with Cancer in Singapore, scientific adviser for the U.S. Children’s Oncology Group and medical advisory board member for Castle Connolly. His numerous awards include Fortune magazine’s 2021 World’s 50 Greatest Leaders; American Cancer Society (ACS) Medal of Honor; and many more. Dr. Pui is one of the most highly cited investigators in medicine, with more than a thousand publications originating from his research. Scientists and doctors worldwide look to his work to better understand why childhood leukemia arises, spreads and resists treatment.