Home > Luca Gianni – Biography

Dr. Gianni is the Director of the Department of Medical Oncology and the head of the Project of Development of New Drugs and Innovative Therapies in Solid Tumours at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy. He also is the cofounder of the Michelangelo Foundation, a non-profit organization for Cancer Research and Treatment whose main aims are to conduct clinical and translational studies internationally and to improve collaboration in many medical disciplines.


As a fellow in the Biochemical Pharmacology Section of the Clinical Pharmacology Branch of NCI, he contributed to the clarification of the reaction of metal ions with anthracyclines, and to the definition of the actual occurrence of the reaction in vivo through iron decompartmentalization from ferritin. His work has been key to the clarification of the leading theory about the biochemical mechanism of anthracycline-induced cardiac toxicity, and supported the use of dexrazoxane as a clinical scavenger of that type of toxicity.


He is member of many scientific societies including ASCO, ESMO and AACR, and of the Editorial Boards of professional journals.


During his career Dr. Gianni has worked on new drug development in the field of oncology and on the definition of innovative drug therapies in Medical Oncology. Since 1995 he focused on clinical and translational research in women with breast cancer.
Dr. Gianni has conducted and contributed key research with antitumor agents, and performed studies of drug disposition of several new anticancer agents. Specifically related to breast cancer, Dr. Gianni has been involved in the development of paclitaxel. Following this work, Dr. Gianni has coordinated an international multicentre study (ECTO) that explored the use of the new paclitaxel containing regimen as adjuvant or primary chemotherapy in women with operable breast cancer. He also launched the NOAH neo-adjuvant trial of chemotherapy and trastuzumab in women with locally advanced/inflammatory HER2-positive breast cancer, which proved the benefit of adding the monoclonal antibody. He was involved and directly contributed to the development of the ER2-directed monoclonal antibody Pertuzumab in metastatic breast cancer. Dr. Gianni designed and chaired the neoadjuvant trial known as NeoSphere, a collaboration of the Michelangelo foundation with Roche/Genentech, that has established the role of the combination of trastuzumab and pertuzumab for dual targeting of HER2. Neosphere was the first trial that clearly illustrated how the antitumor activity and rate of pathologic complete response in HER2+ positive breast cancers undergoing therapy with HER2-directed monoclonal antibodies greatly depends on the immune mechanisms and may be enhanced by addition of drugs targeting immune check points.


In his activity of new drug development Dr. Gianni has also designed and conducted Phase I and Phase II trials with HER2-directed therapies, imatininib, mTOR-inhibitors, PI3K-inhibitors, anti-angiogenics, anti-MEK drugs, agents modulating T-cell response, antivascular agents, and several other new small molecules and monoclonal antibodies.


Dr. Gianni is recipient of several grants and research support, and was awarded the “Gianni Bonadonna Award and Fellowship” by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2011.
In his scientific career Dr. Gianni has published more than 200 articles/reviews in peer reviewed journals.


Since October 12th, 2015, Dr. Gianni is President of the Michelangelo Foundation.