Massimo Cristofanilli, Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, is an internationally known oncologist, with vast contributions on the detection of micrometastatic disease in breast cancer and the research and treatment of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), the most aggressive and deadly form of breast cancer. He currently serves as the Associate Director of Translational Research and Precision Medicine at the Robert Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University in Chicago.
A native of Nettuno (Italy), Cristofanilli obtained his degree in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”in 1986. While on clinical rotations, he was exposed to a large number of locally advanced and inflammatory breast cancers (LABC, IBC) and soon became responsible for the clinical trials devoted to those patients, convincing him of the need of a more comprehensive and focused approach for IBC as a unique and rare clinical and biological entity,
In 2006, Dr. Cristofanilli started the first multidisciplinary Clinic and Research program that focused mainly on IBC at MD Anderson. He led a tremendous team effort (epidemiologists, scientists, diagnostic radiologists, physics, medical and surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists and pathologists), resulting in a number of discoveries and the development of IBC focused trials. Understanding the need for collaboration and education, Dr. Cristofanilli established the IBC International Conference, which led into the creation of an International IBC Consortium. He is also the co-founder of an advocacy organization and a consortium of academic Institutions that will focus on designing inventive studies funded in collaboration with Industry and/or the NCI.
Dr. Cristofanilli’s contribution in drug development has followed a clear path of innovation. He is among the recognized group of experts defining standards and future directions for the use of neoadjuvant systemic therapy for women with LABC and IBC for whom immediate surgery is not feasible. He was instrumental in providing leadership in the development of two effective treatments: Lapatinib in HER-2 positive IBC as well as Palbociclib in combination with Fulvestrant in patients with metastatic estrogen-receptor positive disease. He was among the first breast medical oncologists to understand the importance in next-generation sequencing and subsequently other diagnostic technologies in the management of patients with metastatic breast cancer. He recently demonstrated that the blood can be used to identify components of the innate immunity, e.g. Cancer Associate Macrophage-Like Cells (CAMLs) that can be used to further define risk of progression, detect early disease and possibly monitor the effects of immune modulators.
“We have the unprecedented opportunity to design a patient-centered, biology-driven model of cancer care combining sophisticated tissue and blood-based molecular diagnostic technologies and innovative treatments,” said Dr. Cristofanilli. “We plan to continue the establishment of strategic partnerships and to involve our patients in an educational and informative journey to advance their understanding of their disease and treatments.”