On Wednesday, November 7, 2018, during a gala dinner in New York City, the Italian immunologist and oncologist Prof. Alberto Mantovani, Scientific Director of Humanitas and lecturer at Humanitas University, received the AICF (The American-Italian Cancer Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by Professor Umberto Veronesi to support cancer research and prevention) award for scientific excellence in medicine and for the important scientific contribution in the fight against cancer.

The increasingly key role of immunology in the fight against cancer continues to be confirmed by leading experts and by studies published in the most prestigious journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, which recently published an important study showing the clinical benefits obtained in the treatment of certain lymphomas by removing the check-points of macrophages, the subject of studies by Prof. Mantovani, for this reason called to comment on the study with an editorial in the same journal.

This prestigious award, born at the end of 1984, is awarded annually to doctors and researchers from all over the world who have made important discoveries in the biology, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. People of the caliber of the Italians Rita Levi Montalcini, Umberto Veronesi, Gianni Bonadonna, the Americans Bert Vogelstein and Peter Vogt who have made the history of Oncology.

This year it has been assigned to Professor Mantovani for his important contribution to the progress of knowledge in the field of immunology applied to oncology, through the identification of new molecules and functions and, above all, the discovery (thanks to his studies on innate immunity) of the relationship between inflammation and cancer. In particular, he has shown that some cells of the immune system, the macrophages, instead of defending us from the disease (as they should) behave like “corrupt policemen”, helping it to grow and proliferate undisturbed.

From this very important knowledge more and more new methods of treatment for many types of cancer will come in the future, using our natural defenses. Italian immunology will therefore be at the forefront of the fight against cancer.

“Immune therapy today is the fourth strategy in the fight against cancer and is flanked by surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy – explained Professor Mantovani – and is now one of the weapons that we use daily in the fight against many types of cancer. It is the new frontier from many points of view and is a reason for great hope for those who do research and for patients.

“Research to defeat cancer is continuing to progress, and with this study we have an important new confirmation that it must spur us on to move forward.

This is the second time that the prize – usually awarded to molecular oncologists – has been awarded to an immunologist: the first to receive it was Jim Allison, an expert in adaptive immunity, for the discovery of the check point function (molecular brake of the immune system) of CTLA-4 against cancer.

“Symbolically,” explained Prof. Mantovani, “the awarding of an award to an immunologist, which has always valued studies in the genetics and genomics of cancer, is a sign that the future lies in the marriage between these two worlds. I am therefore particularly honored to receive it. I like to think that, apart from the fact that I recognize my contribution to the progress of knowledge and the treatment of cancer, it is also a reward for all the people, especially the young people, who have worked alongside me in these years. And, more generally, it is an acknowledgement for the contribution of Italian immunology to the fight against cancer”.


Who is Alberto Mantovani?

Immunologist and oncologist, Alberto Mantovani is Scientific Director of Humanitas and lecturer at Humanitas University.

He has contributed to the progress of knowledge in the field of immunology by formulating new paradigms and identifying new molecules and functions.

Bibliometric analyses indicate him as the most cited Italian scientist and one of the most cited immunologists in the international scientific literature.

For his research activity he has received numerous national and international awards and recognitions, including the Robert Koch Award 2016 for the transversal impact on Medicine of his discoveries in the field of immunology.