Showing posts with label Doctors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Doctors. Show all posts

28 November 2023

Umberto Veronesi - oncologist

Pioneered new techniques for treating breast cancer

Umberto Veronesi made an important contribution to breast cancer treatment
Umberto Veronesi made an important
contribution to breast cancer treatment 
Umberto Veronesi, an oncologist whose work in finding new methods to treat breast cancer spared many women faced with a full mastectomy, was born on this day in 1925 in Milan.

Along with many other contributions to the knowledge of breast cancer and breast cancer prevention over a 50-year career, Veronese was a pioneer of breast-conserving surgery in early breast cancer as an alternative to a radical mastectomy. 

He developed the technique of quadrantectomy, which limits surgical resection to the affected quarter of the breast. 

This more limited resection became standard practice for the treatment of breast cancer detected early after Veronesi led the first prospective randomised trial of breast-conserving surgery, which compared outcomes from radical mastectomy against his quadrantectomy over a 20-year period.

Veronesi supported and promoted research aimed at improving conservative surgical techniques in general and conducting studies on tamoxifen and retinoids which helped verify their effectiveness in preventing the formation of cancer in the first place. 

The founder and president of the Umberto Veronesi Foundation, he founded and held the role of scientific director and scientific director emeritus of the European Institute of Oncology, was scientific director of the National Cancer Institute of Milan and held the position of Minister of Health from April 2000 to June 2001 in the second government of prime minister Giuliano Amati.

Veronesi grew up in Casoretto, which was then an agricultural suburb of Milan, where his father was a tenant farmer.  He was one of six children. The family home was relatively remote, the only source of heat in the winter a fireplace in the kitchen. Going to school necessitated a 5km (three miles) walk to school and back, but his parents were determined that their five sons and a daughter would enjoy a good education.

Veronesi pictured at a book signing in 2013, still working at the age of 87
Veronesi pictured at a book signing in 2013, still
working at the age of 87
Veronesi’s father died when he was still a child but the memory of beatings handed out by Fascist squadristi meant that his father’s left-wing politics had a more profound effect on him than his mother’s devout Catholicism. He declared himself to be an agnostic at the age of 14.

He began to focus on cancer soon after graduating in medicine and surgery at the University of Milan in 1951 and specialising in surgery at the University of Pavia. He travelled to England and France to broaden his knowledge and joined the National Cancer Institute, of which he would become director-general in 1975, as a volunteer.

In the course of what would be a brilliant career, his far-sighted ideas were not well received initially and he had to fight to convince others.  Yet in time his scientific projects opened new boundaries in cancer treatment.  His belief in joining forces with patients, communicating with them clearly about their treatment and enlisting their help in campaigns to raise funds helped change attitudes towards the disease.

Veronesi too was instrumental in removing regulatory barriers in the management of terminal cancer patients, making opioid painkillers available to those whose cancer could not be cured.

Veronesi (right) with then president Giorgio Napolitano in 2011
Veronesi (right) with then president
Giorgio Napolitano in 2011
Away from the main focus of his life, Veronesi became politically active when the left-wing politician Bettino Craxi invited him to become a member of the national assembly of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI).  In April 2000 he was Minister of Health in the second Amato government, using his platform to campaign for an anti-smoking law.  He was later elected to the Senate as a member of the Democratic Party.

President of the Italian Nuclear Safety Agency from 2010-11, he resigned from that position in protest at the Berlusconi government for failing to provide the agency with even the minimum structures to carry out its activities.

He was a strong advocate of animal rights, believed in voluntary euthanasia and, controversially, supported the genetic modification of food because of its possibilities for helping parts of the world prone to crop failures and famine, and for removing naturally occurring carcinogens. 

His outspoken opposition to doctors’ strikes in the 1980s, however, caused him to fall foul of the Red Brigades, whose death threats left him looking over his shoulder in public for several years.

Veronesi died at home in November 2016 not long before what would have been his 91st birthday. After a secular funeral at Palazzo Marino, Milan’s city hall, where his son, Alberto, a conductor, led two musical pieces by Beethoven and Puccini, his body was cremated. 

Via Casoretto, looking towards the church of Santa Maria Bianca della Misericordia
Via Casoretto, looking towards the church of
Santa Maria Bianca della Misericordia
Travel tip:

The Casoretto of today is a neighbourhood in the northeastern suburbs of Milan, forming part of an area locally known as NoLo, an acronym for North of Loreto. The area is multicultural with a vibrant nightlife, art galleries and restaurants. Casoretto is notable for colourful houses and an unusually high number of cycle repair shops, reflecting local beliefs in eco-friendly travel.  The neighbourhood fans out from the central Via Casoretto and the church of Santa Maria Bianca della Misericordia, which is sometimes known as the Abbey of Casoretto. Until the start of the 20th century and industrialisation, the area was characterised by farmhouses and cultivated fields, with no significant residential areas apart from a few farmhouses and other buildings around the Abbey.

Palazzo Marino, with the entrace to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II to the right of the picture
Palazzo Marino, with the entrace to the Galleria
Vittorio Emanuele II to the right of the picture
Travel tip:

Palazzo Marino, where Veronesi’s secular funeral was held, is a 16th-century palace located in Piazza della Scala, in the centre of Milan. Standing opposite the world-famous opera house, Teatro alla Scala, and next to the northern entrance to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, it has been Milan’s city hall since 1861. Designed by architect Galeazzo Alessi, it was built between 1557 and 1563 for Tommaso Marino, a wealthy Genovese banker and merchant.  After Marino died, leaving his family bankrupt, the palace became the property of the state before being sold to another banker, Carlo Omodei, who did not live there himself but rented it out to other notable Milanese, before reverting to state ownership in 1781. After being established as the seat of Milan’s municipal government in 1861, the palace was given a new facade to coincide with the creation of Piazza della Scala, undergoing a second major restoration after it was badly damaged by bombing in World War Two. 

Also on this day:

1873: The death of astronomer Caterina Scarpellini

1907: The birth of novelist Alberto Moravia

1913: The birth of composer Mario Nascembene

1941: The birth of actress Laura Antonelli

1955: The birth of footballer Alessandro Altobelli

1977: The birth of World Cup hero Fabio Grosso


8 June 2018

Guido Banti – physician

Doctor was the first to define leukaemia

Guido Banti was among the first doctors to understand the disease process in leukaemia
Guido Banti was among the first doctors to
understand the disease process in leukaemia
The innovative physician and pathologist Guido Banti was born on this day in 1852 in Montebicchieri in Tuscany.

His work on the spleen led him to discover that a chronic congestive enlargement of the spleen resulted in the premature destruction of red blood cells. Closely related to leukaemia, this was later named 'Banti’s disease' in his honour.

Banti’s father was a physician and sent him to study medicine at the University of Pisa and the Medical School in Florence.

He graduated in 1877 and was appointed an assistant at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova and also as an assistant in the laboratory of Pathological Anatomy.

The ability to observe patients in bed and then carry out post mortem examinations was to prove fundamental to his work.

Within five years he had become chief of medical services. In 1895, after a five year spell in a temporary post he was appointed Ordinary Professor of Pathological Anatomy in the medical school in Florence. He remained in this post for 25 years.

Banti published the first textbook in Italy on the techniques of bacteriology in 1885.

Banti worked for a while at the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital, the oldest still-active medical institution in Florence
Banti worked for a while at the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital,
the oldest still-active medical institution in Florence
He studied and also wrote about heart enlargement, the causes of aphasia and hyperplastic gastritis. He spent three years studying cancer cells and published a study of typhoid fever.

In 1895 he wrote about endocarditis and nephritis and atherosclerosis of the kidney.

He studied enlargement of the spleen and wrote a paper describing the condition that would become known as Banti’s disease. He proposed that the enlarged spleen was the cause of red cell destruction which led to anaemia and that only removal of the spleen could stop this process. On his advice, the first splenectomy for haemolytic jaundice was carried out in Florence in 1903.

Banti’s name is still primarily connected with leukaemia and he opposed the views of other scientists about the disease. In 1913 Banti decided that leukaemias are systemic diseases arising from the haematopoietic structures, bone marrow and lymph glands and are the result of the uncontrolled proliferation of staminal blood cells. This accords closely with the modern definition of leukaemia.

Banti died in Florence in 1935 aged 72.

The Church of Santa Lucia in Montebicchieri
The Church of Santa Lucia in Montebichieri
Travel tip:

Montebichieri, where Guido Banti was born, is a village to the southwest of San Miniato in the province of Pisa in Tuscany. In the centre of the village is the 14th century Church of Santa Lucia and a tower and parts of the original walls still survive from the medieval fortifications. Many of the houses are now empty and abandoned.

The bust of Guido Banti at the Florence Institute
The bust of Guido Banti at
the Florence Institute
Travel tip:

There is a bust of Guido Banti in the Institute of Anatomy and Pathology in Florence.  The Institute, established in 1824, is famous for its collection of wax pathological models created in the 19th century, which were invaluable teaching tools in medical schools, where living examples, cadavers, and other visual aids of many pathologies were often scarce. One of the most famous pieces in the museum is the 1851 “leper” model by artist Luigi Calamai.  The museum, which was originally housed at the University of Florence, was moved to the city’s Careggi Hospital in 1859.

Also on this day:

1671: The birth of Venetian composer Tomaso Albinoni

1823: The birth of Pompeii archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli