Inspiration comes in many forms. For cancer researcher Ariel Hollinshead Hyun, PhD, known professionally as Dr. Hollinshead, it came at the age of 15, when she was captivated by Paul de Kruif’s book Microbe Hunters. She was fascinated by the lives of early bacteriologists detailed in the book and eager to pursue her own scientific research. Her educational path and career trajectory accelerated from there, and her seminal work in identifying tumor antigens led to further groundbreaking research in cancer vaccines and immunotherapy. Dr. Hollinshead died on September 10, 2019, at the age of 90.
Ariel Hollinshead Hyun, PhD
Beginning as a Virologist
Dr. Hollinshead was born Ariel Cahill on August 24, 1929, in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. She was a dedicated student throughout high school, excelling in science. After graduating, she matriculated to Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts institution, where she met her future husband. She transferred to Ohio University and earned her undergraduate degree. She then went to George Washington University, where she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in pharmacology in 1951. She completed her postdoctoral work in virology and epidemiology at Baylor University Medical Center, working closely with the late Joseph L. Melnick, PhD, a founder of modern virology and a pioneer in polio research.
Dedication Beyond the Call
Dr. Hollinshead’s early research focused on oncovirology, working to develop cancer vaccines. Her first experiments used bits of oncoviruses to determine whether they could produce an immune response in animals. During these experiments, she also used fragments from tumors caused by the virus as a scientific control, and she was surprised to learn that the membrane fragments provoked a stronger immune response. Many of her colleagues and sponsors were highly skeptical of her findings, and she went without research money or a salary for more than 8 months until she found a collaborator at the Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Hollingshead eventually validated her studies and invented methods using low-frequency ultrasound to isolate the immune-inducing element from the tumor membrane fragments. This work led to the early clinical trials of cancer vaccines using tumor antigens in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, she began following the same process to identify and test tumor antigens from women with ovarian cancer, and this groundbreaking work resulted in clinical trials. When the AIDS epidemic took hold across the country, Dr. Hollinshead returned to her virology roots and joined the effort to develop an HIV vaccine.
An Impressive Body of Work
Dr. Hollinshead published more than 275 research articles and directed 17 clinical trials, involving some 19 types of human cancers, including lung, colon, and ovarian cancers. Her contributions to her field included roles in the discovery of purine and pyrimidine analogs for the treatment of cancer and viral infection, with notable early work on poliomyelitis. She was one of the first to develop and test antibodies to various cancer neoantigens, which have the ability to induce long-lasting, cell-mediated immunity. She and Dr. T.H.M. Stewart of the University of Ottawa identified induced dormancy in human lung tumors using state-of-the-art technology of the day. Some of the patients who received their vaccines experienced greater than 12-year survival outcomes.
Dr. Hollinshead was named Medical Woman of the Year in 1976 by the Joint Board of American Medical Colleges, heralded as “one of the few women in our country who will receive lasting distinction by applying the principles of basic research to the diseases of humanity.” She was a member of several professional societies, including ASCO, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Hollinshead was the recipient of numerous awards and in 1980 was honored at the White House by President Jimmy Carter.
A Joyous Spirit
Family and colleagues recall Dr. Hollinshead as a serious and dedicated scientist, but one who loved to sing and play the piano. She was an active member of community choirs, singing mezzo-soprano into her late 80s. She often spent weekends with family and friends in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, where she loved to paint scenic views. Dr. Hollinshead was a devout Quaker and an advocate for the advancement of women in science. She is survived by her two sons, William and Christopher Hyun, a daughter-in-law, Maria Pallante, and three grandchildren, Stephanie, Isabella, and Spenser Hyun. Dr. Hollinshead also leaves behind numerous beloved nieces, nephews, friends, colleagues, and former students. Her husband of nearly 60 years, Montgomery Hyun, died in 2016. ■