Umberto Veronesi was born in Milan in 1925 and obtained his medical degree in 1951 from Milan University. After brief periods in England and France, he joined the Italian National Institute for Cancer Research in Milan as a volunteer. He qualified as a Professor of Pathological Anatomy in 1957 and Professor of Surgery in 1961 at Milan University. Professor Veronesi dedicated his professional activity to the study and treatment of cancers. He served as consultant pathologist and surgeon at the Italian National Institute for Cancer Research, and is the Founder and Scientific Director of the European Institute of Oncology in Milan. He became Minister of Health from 2000-2001. During his long and distinguished career, Professor Veronesi directed many cancer research programs and societies. He is currently Scientific Director of the European Institute of Oncology, President of “Science for Peace” and consultant to the Italian Supreme Health Council. In 2003, he established the Umberto Veronesi Foundation which aims to spread scientific culture and to provide free and rapid access to cancer research in Europe.
Professor Veronesi was the first to demonstrate that conservative breast surgery plus radiotherapy, which leaves the breast intact, can substitute mutilating mastectomy and yet obtain the same cure rate. He invented the technique of quadrantectomy, thus challenging the idea then prevailing among surgeons that cancers could be treated only with aggressive surgery. Since then, he has been supporting and promoting scientific research aimed to improve conservative surgical technique. He developed new researches with sentinel node biopsy procedure to avoid axillary dissection when the lymph nodes are not involved. He also contributed to breast cancer prevention, conducting studies on tamoxifen and retinoids and verifying their capabilities to prevent the formation of carcinoma, and has always been an activist in many antitobacco campaigns.
Professor Veronesi published more than 700 papers and many textbooks. He served as editor-in-chief of the European Handbook of Surgical Oncology and co-editor of Oxford Textbook of Oncology. In addition to the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine, he was awarded ten ‘honoris causa’ in Medicine and numerous prizes and medals. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Honorary Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Medicine at Dublin University and Honorary Professor at the University of Buenos Aeries. In addition, he is an elected fellow or member of several major medical and scientific societies related to cancer research, including the Royal Society of Medicine of London and the American Association for Cancer Research and is a past president of the International Union Against Cancer, the European Society of Surgical Oncology, the European Society of Mastology, the Federation of European Cancer Societies, the International Society of Cancer Chemoprevention, Breast Cancer International and the WHO International Group for the Study of Melanoma.
Professor Veronesi, has been awarded the prize, in recognition of his pioneering work on breast cancer management, including the development of breast-conserving surgery as an alternative for radical mastectomy for treating certain types of breast cancer, in addition to his major contribution to the sentinel node technique, and research on intra-operative radiotherapy, which could reduce complications and time for multi-modality therapy of this disease.