Noted Yale Professor to lead UMMS cancer research


May 13, 2002


WORCESTER, Mass.—Dario C. Altieri, MD, a nationally renowned hematologist from the Yale University School of Medicine, has been appointed professor and chair of the Department of Cancer Biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  The new department recognizes the promise and the complexity of contemporary research into the causes of and cures for cancer. 


“Dario Altieri is an outstanding scientist and possesses all of the attributes necessary to bring together the complex and varied components that will make the University of Massachusetts Medical School a nationally known cancer research center,” said Chancellor and Dean Aaron Lazare, MD.  “His visionary research will be a superb complement to the work of his colleagues performing cancer research in established departments at the Medical School and the excellent clinical work by our colleagues at UMass Memorial Health Care.”


Altieri, who has dedicated his career to cancer research, said of his initial visit to the Medical School, “What I found was a young campus, vibrant with research, driven by commitment and dedication…the vision and the resources to start new initiatives, focused programs and ambitious endeavors….This is what I found at UMass, and this was why I decided to move here, and seize a unique opportunity.”

Housed in the medical school’s new research laboratory building, the department of cancer biology will encompass the multidisciplinary UMass Cancer Center, and will utilize some of the most vital cancer research and treatment techniques yet developed, including gene therapy and bone marrow transplantation.  Altieri will be the director of the UMass Cancer Center, overseeing and guiding the Medical School’s cancer research endeavors.


Altieri is widely noted for his discovery of “survivin,” a protein that inhibits cell death and allows mutated or cancerous cells to survive and replicate.  In 1999 his laboratory identified two molecular-based methods by which the gene can be switched off to stop the progression of the disease.  His studies have shown that survivin is not present in healthy tissue but is prolific in most common cancers, and that the presence of the gene in urine is an early and reliable molecular marker for bladder cancer.


A native of Italy, Altieri earned his medical degree in 1982 from the University of Milan Medical School, where he also received a postgraduate specialty degree in clinical and experimental hematology in 1985.  He served an internship in the department of pathology and the department of internal medicine at St. Raffaele Hospital in Milan before his residency in the division of clinical and experimental hematology at Milan.


Altieri came to the United States in 1987 as a research fellow in the department of immunology at the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La Jolla, CA, later becoming an assistant member of that department’s committee on vascular biology.  In 1994 he was appointed associate professor of pathology at Yale University School of Medicine, in the renowned Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine, becoming a full professor there in 1999.


Dr. Altieri is a member of the American Society for Investigating Pathology, the American Association of Immunologists, the American Society of Hematology, and the American Society of Clinical Investigation.  He is chair of the pathology section of the NIH initial review group; an editor of the new journal Tumor Biology and Therapy; and a journal reviewer for such publications as the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Blood, Journal of Immunology, Nature, Cancer Research, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Nature Medicine and Nature Cell Biology.  He is also an editorial board member of Laboratory Investigation and Cell Death and Differentiation.  He is the author of a book on coagulation-inflammation interface and has published scores of original articles in scientific journals.


The University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of the fastest growing medical schools in the country, attracting more than $123 million in research funding annually.  A perennial top five finisher in the annual US News & World Report ranking of primary care medical schools, UMMS comprises a medical school, graduate school of nursing, graduate school of biomedical sciences and an active research enterprise, and is a leader in health sciences education, research and public service. 



Alison Duffy, 508-856-2000