In memory of Professor Angelo Di Leo

Angelo Di Leo (1963-2021)

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Professor Angelo Di Leo at the age of 58, a giant in the field of oncology, a member of the EORTC Breast Cancer Group, a dear colleague, and friend to many.

Professor Di Leo graduated in medicine and surgery at the University of Palermo, Italy, in 1988. He received his postgraduate diploma in medical oncology from the University of Pavia in 1992 and his European certification in medical oncology in 1996. He trained at the National Cancer Institute in Milan, Italy, where he worked for 7 years until 1996. It was during those years that he first met Professor Aron Goldhirsch.

In 1996, Professor Di Leo and his wife, Dr Laura Biganzoli, moved to Brussels, where they both started to work at the Jules Bordet Institute with Dr Martine Piccart and Dr Christos Sotiriou, among others. This was the beginning of a long collaboration and precious friendships that were to last over 20 years. Professor Di Leo was appointed Senior Staff Member and Medical Director of the Breast European Adjuvant Studies Team (BrEAST, now known as the Institut Jules Bordet Clinical Trials Support Unit). Laura was also involved in the beginnings of BIG. They left Belgium to return to their beloved Italy in 2003.

Since 2003, Professor Di Leo was Head of the Sandro Pitigliani Medical Oncology Department at the Hospital of Prato, Italy.

Throughout his career, Professor Di Leo made significant contributions to breast cancer research and treatment and helped pave the way towards precision medicine. He was particularly involved in the evaluation of molecular markers with potential predictive value for breast cancer.

Professor Di Leo was a true defender of academic research and international collaboration: “One of the first things I learned from Aron [Goldhirsch] was that it doesn’t matter where you work, you need to be part of an international network of high-quality researchers so that you can learn, grow and express yourself”. (Extract from an interview in 2020)

Something that he put in practice himself, as he also became a true and generous mentor and educator, supportive of younger oncologists.

“Angelo was a wonderful physician and person, and he will be missed by all of us, his family and patients. For myself, I will miss his wise counsel – as a long-standing member and friend of BIG – and I will miss the opportunity to get his advice on difficult matters where his wisdom was always appreciated.” Prof David Cameron, President Elect, EBC Council

In 2019, Professor Di Leo received the prestigious ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award as recognition for his brilliant career and outstanding contributions to cancer research and treatment.

He authored numerous publications and was a member of the Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Cooperative Group (EBCTCG) Steering Committee, Chair of the Biological Protocol Working Group (BPWG) at IBCSG. He also served on the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Grants Selection Committee (2006–2009), the ASCO Education Committee (2012–2014), and the Scientific Advisory Council of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® (2010-2016).

Professor Di Leo was not only a world-renowned oncologist and researcher, but he was a wonderful person, too. His colleagues and friends describe him as approachable, always quiet, smiling, and helpful. He was a charismatic and elegant man, dedicated to his work, a loving husband and father, and an art enthusiast.

Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues.