RTOG Foundation New Investigator Spotlight: Dr. Hyun Kim

April 06, 2023

Hyun Kim, MD, was recently selected as an RTOG Foundation New Investigator Spotlight due to his various accomplishments and ongoing efforts in the oncology community. Dr. Kim is a physician treating patients with gastrointestinal (GI) malignancies as well as the Chief of GI Oncology Service and Chief of MR Clinical Services in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Washington University St. Louis. His focus is on nonoperative and adaptive radiation therapy to improve outcomes in GI cancers, especially rectal, pancreas, gastric, and liver tumors. Dr. Kim serves as the co-leader for both lower and upper GI focus groups at Siteman Cancer Center. Additionally, he served as the principal investigator for multiple investigator-initiated trials, including trials evaluating short course radiation followed by multi-agent chemotherapy for nonoperative management of rectal adenocarcinoma (NORMAL-R), full-dose gemcitabine/abraxane with concurrent MR-guided radiotherapy (MRgRT) in locally advanced pancreas cancer, MR-guided adaptive radiation therapy in gastric adenocarcinoma, adaptive palliative radiation therapy without the traditionally requisite CT simulation scan and a clinical trial where we obtained first-in-world images with a novel ring-gantry imaging system that has the image quality and potential for adaptive radiation therapy in CT-based radiation therapy units.

Q: What kind of research are you currently engaged with?

A: My research interests include nonoperative management of rectal adenocarcinoma, adaptive radiation therapy and novel therapeutics. Adaptive radiation therapy is especially useful in treating gastrointestinal malignancies. With online adaptive capabilities, one can escalate radiation dose while accounting for tumor motion. I am fortunate to be surrounded by very talented scientists at Washington University School of Medicine. Together we are investigating a number of different targeted agents (e.g. focal adhesion kinase, fructose and IDO inhibitors) in combination with radiation treatment.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment so far in regard to your research/career?

A: I was fortunate to be the senior author for the first prospective data demonstrating early safety and efficacy of short course radiation therapy for definitive nonoperative treatment of rectal adenocarcinoma. Prior experiences in this realm have evaluated nonoperative management with long course chemoradiation or short course radiation as preoperative or palliative treatment. Although the clinical trial was small, it synergizes with our published retrospective institutional experience to encourage other clinicians to confidently evaluate short course radiation in nonoperative management. This transitioned seamlessly to approach our cancer center leadership about creating a young-onset colorectal cancer center at our institution. Young-onset colorectal cancer incidence is rising. This patient population need treatment options and ancillary services that account for the unique socioeconomic circumstances of their lives. My co-directors in colorectal surgery and medical oncology and I recently celebrated the opening of this program at Siteman Cancer Center.

Q: What are you most interested in achieving through your research/career?

A: I am excited about advancing nonoperative treatments for gastrointestinal tumors. Anal cancer is already a nonsurgical disease. We are seeing an increasingly warm reception for nonoperative management in rectal cancer.  I am interested to see if we can find novel treatment approaches to further the nonoperative needle in gastric and pancreatic cancer as well. This will of course require excellent collaboration with our scientists, medical oncology and surgical colleagues but I think this is a real possibility for our generation of investigators.

Q: What inspired you to become involved in cancer research and/or specifically your field?

A: I love cancer research because it is the proverbial unsolvable problem. Not only do we become emotionally invested as we care for and mourn our patients, but there is this perception of insurmountability associated with cancer. This adds an as aspect of intellectual challenge to work that extends beyond routine clinical practice.

Q: What has been your experience engaging in the Radiation Oncology community and with RTOGF?

A: The radiation oncology community is fantastic. There are so many talented and bright physicians and physicists who are eager to collaborate and mentor young investigators while leading the progression of cancer therapy research. I interacted with RTOGF to discuss an ongoing preoperative MR guided radiation in gastric adenocarcinoma trial. I was so impressed with the caliber of physician leaders that attended the call to evaluate my small trial concept. While the collaboration did not materialize due to logistical and financial considerations, I was provided with valuable feedback.


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