On Friday 14 Sept, 2018 we lost a mentor, teacher, colleague and friend, Dr Giulio D’Angio - the Father of Paediatric Radiation Oncology. Our society was his dream. We and all of our patients are beneficieries of his pioneering work.
Dr Christian Carrie and Dr Joel Goldwein shared their touching personal tribute.
Dr Joel Goldwein
I worked very closely with Dr. D'Angio for over a decade while I was at Penn/CHOP. Soon after I finished my residency in Radiation Oncology there, I was his "second" running the pediatric radiation oncology practice and then eventually took it over from him though we still worked closely together. I can't imagine bigger shoes to fill. He touched so many live both directly via what he did for his patients, but also indirectly via the many hundreds of his students whom he taught the craft and art of pediatric radiation oncology. In addition, through countless clinical trials and studies, he very positively impacted the outcome of many pediatric cancers. Ones that come to mind most are Wilms Tumor (a pediatric kidney tumor), and Medulloblastoma (a pediatric brain tumor), but there are others such as some of the pediatric leukemias where great progress was made by virtue of his influence. I even once heard that he was among the initial designers of what today we consider a modern clinical trial, though that one needs to be fact checked.
In terms of his personality, Dan had the combination of smarts, warmth, sincerity and caring that made it hard to argue against any idea he had (plus, he was always correct). He was so thoughtful to all of his patients, students, interns, residents and fellows, that many would come from very far away just to spend a week following Dan around. I recall visitors from the mid-East, Europe, Asia and of course across North America - all professionals in training or beyond who wanted to learn from the gentle giant. Many careers (medical and otherwise), my own included, are credits to Dan and his influence.
I still have a letter from him that I will cherish forever with a personal note and a picture of a patient from Italy that we took care of together probably in the late 90's when she was an infant. She is carrying her own child in the photo - a testament to his and our success.. Dan must have received hundreds of these over the years. Wow!
I really can't say enough about Dan. They don't make them like him any more and as I said in my comment, he will be sorely missed.
Dr Christian CARRIE
HE WAS THE GREATEST
Some years ago in Philadelphia, thanks to Joel Goldwein, was the first meeting entirely dedicated to pediatric oncology.
I was a young fellow and I was hesitating between medical pediatric oncology and radiation therapy. My head of department, Maud Brunat Mentigny, co-founder with Odile Schweiguth and Audrey Evans of SIOP, sent me to this meeting. I was fortunate enough to meet there THE Professor D’Angio.
When you are a young student meeting the Professor D’Angio was like seeing God: you have read his articles and attended his conferences but he did not seem like a real human being. In fact Dan was, as he was always, so kind and convincing that 24 hours later I decided to become a pediatric radiation oncologist.
Throughout the course of my career I was in touch with him to discuss difficult cases, philosophical problems regarding conservative treatment, including mutilating surgical procedure versus a conservative radiotherapeutic approach whilst keeping in mind the potential side effects. He recognized the importance of late effects and their impact on the future of pediatric oncology. At that time radiation therapy was seen as unacceptable for children: the source of terrible sequelae and a therapy which would no longer be used with the improvements from chemotherapy.
The evidence that radiation therapy cannot be excluded from all childhood cancer treatment, the dramatic improvement of the techniques, knowledge of risk factors, and the capacity now to spare more normal tissue, helped to change the use of radiotherapy in the eyes of pediatric oncologists.
I remember a long discussion with Dan when a radiation oncologist demonstrated the importance of the quality of radiotherapy treatment for Medulloblastoma. Dan was enthusiastic about the results and encouraged me to pursue this area.
Some years later, in 2004, we decided to create the PROS (Paediatric Radiation Oncology Society). The first meeting was in Lyon in 2004 under the name of the international congress pediatric radiation oncology (ICPRO) and the first PROS meeting followed in 2006 in Barcelona. Obviously I think it was one of the best days for Dan: the birth of the Paediatric Radiation Oncology Society was a dream for him and I am proud to have been one of the founding members together with Carolyn Freeman, Rolf Kortmann, Karen Marcus, Patrick Thomas, Shiao Woo, Anita Mahajan and Edward Halperin, and the first president of PROS.
For all of us it is an deep loss and Dan will be always with us and the children. Wherever you are Dan I know you see us and are proud of what is now the Paediatric Radiation Oncology Society due to you.