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Alberto Mantovani

Alberto Mantovani, MD, is Professor of Pathology at the Humanitas University in Milan, and Scientific Director of the Istituto Clinico Humanitas.  His attention has been focused on molecular mechanisms of innate immunity and inflammation. He has contributed to the advancement of knowledge in the field of Immunology formulating new paradigms and identifying new molecules and functions. For his research activity he has received several national and international awards, including in 2016 the Triennial OECI Award from the Organization of the European Cancer Institutes and the Robert Koch Award for his contribution to tumor immunology and immunotherapy. The broad impact of his contributions is testified by citations. As of February 2017 he has over 91,800 (Scopus), 66,700 (Web of Science) or 160,000 (Google Scholar) citations and an H-index of 147 (Scopus), 120 (Web of Science) or 191 (Google Scholar).

Immunity and cancer: from a dream to global health

In the last 16 years we have witnessed a change in the accepted paradigm of the essence of cancer.  The new version of the paradigm includes the microenvironment, the ecological niche, as a key component of cancer. In brief, development of a clinically observed tumor  is associated with the recruitment of corrupted policemen,  macrophages, and other white blood cells, which help cancer to progress. Concomitantly, the directors of the adaptive immunity orchestra, the T cells, are put to sleep; they are like a “Ferrari” with many brakes on. The brakes we call “checkpoints”,  and the corrupted policemen help holding the brakes on.
The change in paradigm together with progress in identifying  the cells and molecules involved in immunity have led to a revolution in the fight against cancer. We use antibodies, cytokines and anti-cytokine molecules to treat patients and to protect them from toxicity; we release brakes called checkpoints; we are learning how to stop corrupted policemen and how to reeducate and increase in number and arm the army of our soldiers.  I consider myself a person with many privileges and one of them is seeing and being part of the initial fulfilment of a dream, a dream of the founding fathers and of many, including myself, the dream to use the power of immunity to fight cancer. 
A final “global” reflection. Thanks to progress in the control of infectious disorders, cancer is now a major health problem in the developing world.  Cancer diagnosis and treatment are extremely expensive, and more so are the immunological tools. We should start thinking of strategies aimed at sharing. An impossible dream?


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