Our founder

Umberto Veronesi, founder of the European Institute of Oncology, was born in Milan in 1925. He lived and worked there as surgeon, first at the National Cancer Institute and then at the IEO for all his life.

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Umberto Veronesi's name has been associated with various significant scientific discoveries and cultural developments, all of them internationally renowned and now in practice worldwide. 


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It was Veronesi, at the National Cancer Institute in Milan, on the basis of controlled clinical trials, that first contributed to the development of the conservative treatment of breast cancer. He was the first to demonstrate that in the case of small breast tumors it was safe to perform a wide resection followed by radiotherapy instead of the traditional mutilating radical mastectomy, thereby preserving the breast. More recently he developed the sentinel node biopsy procedure to identify lymph node involvement and so avoid complete axillary dissection when not necessary.

In the last twenty years he has devoted his interests to breast cancer prevention, conducting two major randomized studies aimed at reducing the risk of breast cancer in normal women by means of retinoids and tamoxifen. 

Recently he has re-evaluated the procedures of postoperative radiotherapy after breast conserving surgery, introducing the technique of intraoperative radiotherapy.

By founding the International Melanoma Group he alerted pathologists and clinicians to the pressing need for international co-operation in melanoma research and devised and conducted trials which showed that prophylactic dissection of regional nodes in stage I disease could safely be avoided. Furthermore, he advocated a conservative approach to melanoma which has been adopted by the World Health Organisation Melanoma Group of which he was chief investigator for 20 years.


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Veronesi has also dedicated much effort into initiating and promoting educational enterprises for the training of oncologists. In 1982, he founded the European School of Oncology, which has since become a point of reference throughout Europe and, in particular, an advisory body for the European Community. The European Society of Surgical Oncology, also founded by Umberto Veronesi, has, likewise undertaken an educational line which follows well in the wake of the guidelines set out by the School.



He was President of the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) until 1982, of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer from 1985 to 1988, and of the Federation of European Cancer Societies (FECS) from 1991 to 1993. He was founder and first President of the European Cancer Societies of Mastology.

He has been awarded “Honoris Causa” in Medicine by Argentinean (Buenos Aires, Cordoba), Brazilian (Rio Grande do Sul), Greek (Athens), Belgian (Antwerp), and Polish (Kracow) Universities. In May 2003 he was awarded “Honoris Causa” in Medical Biotechnologies from the University of Milan (Italy) and in March 2005 in Physics, also from the University of Milan. In December 2006 he was awarded “Honoris Causa” in Agricultural Sciences from the University of Naples (Italy) and in October 2007 he was awarded “Honoris Causa” in Medicine from University of Lleida (Spain). In November 2009 he was awarded “Honoris Causa” in Pedagogical Sciences from University of Genoa (Italy). In May 2010 he was awarded “Docteur Honoris Causa” in Medicina from University of Antananarivo (Madagascar), in June 2011 he was awarded “Honoris Causa” in Odontology and Dental Prosthesis from University of Foggia (Italy) and in November 2011 he was awarded with a new Honorary Degree in Medicine from King’s College of London.

In March 2003 he was awarded the “2003 King Faisal International Prize” from Saudi Arabia.

 In 1994 he was appointed President of the “Committee of Cancer Experts” of the Commission of European Communities.

Veronesi is the author of more than 790 scientific publications and 12 oncological essays.

He was Scientific Director of the European Institute of Oncology - Milan, Italy from May 1994 to April 2000.

He was entrusted with the post of Minister of Health in the Italian Government from April 2000 to June 2001.

On July 1, 2001 he resumed the position of Scientific Director of the European Institute of Oncology.

He was Senator of the sixteenth Italian Parliament from April 2008 to February 2011.


In January 2015 he was appointed Emeritus Scientific Director of the European Institute of Oncology. 




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