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With profound sadness, we communicate to our readers that Professor Francesco Lo-Coco has died unexpectedly on March 3, 2019. His premature death has deprived of inspiring guidance his family, students, colleagues, and the whole hematology world, in Italy and international hematology. Our journal, as well, lost one of the most vivid and experienced members of his editorial board. Prof. Lo-Coco has been present in the Editorial Board of the MJHID since its foundation. He was the authoritative Guest Editor of a series of review articles on Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia in 2011, and in 2016 accepted to be Co-Editor of MJHID.

Francesco Lo Coco was one of the most famous Italian hematologists, and an inspiring teacher for many young doctors. He is one of the hematologists who wrote over the last years the history of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). His translational and clinical studies have been the basis for the current 90% cure rate in this disease.

He was born in Palermo and was educated at the Medical School in Pisa. In 1991, he moved to the La Sapienza University of Rome and started his hematology fellowship under the direction of Prof. Franco Mandelli, who has been one of his mentors for many years. From 1992 to 1994, he was visiting researcher at the Columbia University in New York.

In 1994, he started his intense collaboration with his friend Piergiuseppe Pelicci, and together they characterized the PML-RARA rearrangement in APL, laying the ground for the modern treatment of the disease. Giuseppe Avvisati in Italy, Miguel Sanz of the Spanish PETHEMA group, Uwe Platzbecker of the German Intergroup, and several other Colleagues around the world have been his faithful and friendly fellow travelers on the long trip towards the cure of APL. The clinical, multicentric, randomized study promoted by the Italian GIMEMA group, published on the New England Journal Medicine in 2013, first showed that a highly aggressive leukemia may be cured without the use of chemotherapy.

He has been Full Professor of Hematology at Tor Vergata University in Rome since 2005, where he led the laboratory of Onco-hematology and funded a research group, which progressively grew over the years. Despite a number of logistic difficulties, but assisted by his devoted collaborators, he expressed an extraordinary planning capacity by standardizing the laboratory procedures and organizing the network for the genetic and molecular diagnosis of malignant myeloid diseases.

Along the years, Francesco Lo Coco held numerous prominent positions in national and international scientific societies: SIES, SIE, ASH, AIL, GIMEMA, AIRC, and EHA. Thanks to his continuous activity, he was member of several important Editorial Boards and published more than 400 papers in peer-review scientific journals, reaching an H-index of 96.

He received a long list of national and international awards during his scientific career.  Among the most relevant, we may mention the latest: the G. Venosta Award by AIRC in 2016 awarded by the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, the P. Stryckmans Memorial Lecture by the Belgian Society of Hematology in 2017, and, finally, the prestigious “José Carreras Award” by the EHA in 2018.

In addition to his scientific qualities, the universal recognition for his pleasant and enjoyable character, and the elegance of his style are impressive.

Francesco, a person of unusual sensitivity and culture, keen on music and Opera, was also particularly charming and likeable when singing accompanied by the sound of his guitar, together with his son Gaetano. Sicily and the North of Spain with Castro-Urdiales, his beloved village, and the sea of Cantabrico region were his origins, to which he always came back.

Wonderful mentor for many physicians and biologists, he was greatly beloved by his Collaborators for his equity, the extraordinary innovativeness and the capacity to bring out the individual abilities and needs. Running into him every morning at work or during meetings was a true pleasure for anybody who knew him.

Persons like Francesco Lo Coco are rare to meet in life, and this awareness makes his loss hardest to bear.

“It is widely rumored in more than one land

-I heard it at ASH, so I assume it is right-

That dear Francesco, a wonderful friend,

In previous life was a promyelocyte.

………..

At the same we make another pledge:

Culture per se must grow from our human roots:

“We were not made to live like unto brutes,

But for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.”

 

From a poetry dedicated to Francesco by Lucio Luzzatto on the occasion of the

plenary presentation at ASH in 2013.

 


William Arcese, M.D.

Maria Teresa Voso, M.D.

Miguel Sanz, M.D.

 Giuseppe Leone, M.D.