2016 AIRC-FIRC GUIDO VENOSTA PRIZE AWARDED TO PROF. FRANCESCO LO COCO OF ROME’S “TOR VERGATA” UNIVERSITY
The Biennial “Guido Venosta” Prize was established in 1996 and is aimed exclusively at young Italian researchers who have particularly distinguished themselves in research towards developing new therapeutic approaches to neoplasia. The Prize is part of a push to bring recognition to a group of persons playing a key role in the battle against cancer, namely, young researchers within Italian institutes, institutions, and universities.
Prof. Francesco Lo Coco (Full Professor at the Department of Biomedicine and Prevention of the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, and awarded the Venosta Prize for his studies on acute promyelocytic leukemia) was previously the winner in the Health Section of the 14th edition of the Sapio Award for Italian Research (Premio Sapio). Thanks also to contributions made over the last 20 years by the Italian research community, promyelocytic leukemia is now curable in over 80% of cases with a combination of chemotherapy and retinoic acid (a derivative of vitamin A).
However, the known side effects of chemotherapy (nausea and vomiting, infections, immune suppression, hair loss, and so on), though in most instances transitory, have a very negative effect on the quality of life of patients and are associated with a significant risk of mortality. The Italo-German study (conducted 75% in Italy and coordinated at Tor Vergata) clearly demonstrates the possibility of curing this form of leukemia without exposure to the serious toxic effects of chemotherapy.
The studies conducted by Prof. Lo Coco have contributed significantly to the development of innovative therapies that have enabled the achievement of a very high cure rate for a once fatal disease. His work has also concretely demonstrated the feasibility and worth of “chemotherapy-free” treatments in oncology.