Dr. Luca Gianni, Named Recipient of Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Award, Pays Tribute to his Mentor
According to Luca Gianni, MD, everyone has a wish list of career milestones that feeds their dreams and ambitions. Because of his work in new drug development and in the definition of innovative drug therapies in oncology, especially for women with breast cancer, Dr. Gianni has attained one of his goals, having been named the recipient of the 2011 Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Award and Lecture.
"The number one goal on my wish list is to reach the level of Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Award. I’m extremely moved and excited," he told ASCO Daily News.
|Luca Gianni, MD
Dr. Gianni was raised in a family of doctors, but he moved into the field of oncology by chance. He had been searching for a mentor who could help him achieve his goal of laboratory research participation, and upon meeting Gianni Bonadonna, MD, in 1979, his search was over.
Dr. Bonadonna encouraged Dr. Gianni to apply for a fellowship at the National Institute for the Study and Treatment of Cancer, Milan, Italy, where he would learn the principles of clinical pharmacology and would assemble a team of researchers dedicated to phase I studies.
Dr. Gianni is the Director of the Department of Medical Oncology and the head of the Project of Development of New Drugs and Innovative Therapies in Solid Tumors at the San Raffaele Cancer Center in Milan, Italy. He also is the Cofounder of the Michelangelo Foundation, a nonprofit organization designed to advance research in oncology.
A Career in Research
As a fellow in the Biochemical Pharmacology Section of the Clinical Pharmacology Branch of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Dr. Gianni contributed to the clarification of the reaction of metal ions with anthracyclines, and to the definition of the actual occurrence of the reaction in vivo through iron decompartmentalization from ferritin. His work has been key to the clarification of the leading theory about the biochemical mechanism of anthracycline-induced cardiac toxicity, and has supported the use of ICRF as a clinical scavenger of metal ions.
Dr. Gianni has also contributed to the study of drug disposition of several new anticancer agents. He participated on the application of new pharmacologically-guided criteria to phase I studies, which demonstrated the applicability of pharmacokinetics to the early clinical development of new drugs in humans, and elucidated the role of metabolism to new anthracyclines in the pharmacologic effects of iododoxorubicin.
In addition, following a serendipitous observation, he proposed that iododoxorubicin is capable of specifically binding to and disrupting the amyloid deposits associated with myeloma.
"The most rewarding aspect of my work is when an idea for improving the outcome of patients with cancer becomes reality, and the new treatment fulfills its promise," said Dr. Gianni. "The most challenging aspect is accepting that so many patients still do not survive."
|"We live in a period of unprecedented opportunities to improve the course of disease and eventually cure many patients with cancer."
— Luca Gianni, MD
Specifically related to breast cancer, Dr. Gianni has been involved in the development of paclitaxel ovarian and breast cancer treatment. His research led to the definition of a successful new regimen for breast cancer as well as the clarification of relevant aspects of the pharmacology of paclitaxel and the mechanisms of drug–drug enhancement with doxorubicin.
Following this work, Dr. Gianni has launched and is coordinator of an international multicenter study (ECTO) that explored the use of the new paclitaxelcontaining regimen as adjuvant or primary chemotherapy in women with operable breast cancer.
An improved efficacy for the paclitaxel-containing regimen was recently shown. Dr. Gianni also served as a key member of the Executive Committee of the HERA trial that tested the use of trastuzumab as adjuvant after end of chemotherapy in HER2-positive operable breast cancer, and he launched the NOAH neoadjuvant trial of chemotherapy and trastuzumab in women with locally advanced/inflammatory HER2-positive breast cancer, which proved the benefit of adding the monoclonal antibody.
"We live in a period of unprecedented opportunities to improve the course of disease and eventually cure many patients with cancer," Dr. Gianni explained. "My greatest goal is to leave a trail of opportunities that will attract young doctors and investigators to this fascinating discipline of medicine, as Dr. Bonadonna has done for me."
Dr. Gianni will receive the award and present his lecture at the 2011 Breast Cancer Symposium held in San Francisco, CA, from September 8-10, 2011. (For details on the Symposium, see BCS 2011.)
The Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Award and Lecture and the Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Research Fellowship are supported by a grant from GlaxoSmithKlineOncology.