Dr. Marco Giovannini, professor-in-residence of the head and neck surgery department in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has received the 2021 Friedrich von Recklinghausen Award from the Children’s Tumor Foundation. He was recognized for his contributions to the understanding and development of new treatments for neurofibromatosis type 2, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form in the brain, spinal cord and nerves.
As director of the Neural Tumor Research Laboratory and a member of the Signal Transduction and Therapeutics Program at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Giovannini studies ways to improve the quality and long-term survival of people diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 2 and Schwannomatosis, a genetic condition that results in tumors on the peripheral nerves throughout the body.
Giovannini, along with members of his laboratory, has made a number of seminal contributions to the characterization of major tumor suppressors, such as NF1, NF2, p53, APC and SMARCB1. He has recognized that the lack of preclinical neurofibromatosis type 2 and Schwannomatosis models presents a real roadblock to developing better treatments for patients. Using a variety of genetically engineered mouse lines to study the effects and interactions of these genes in vivo, Giovannini and his lab strive to develop models that faithfully replicate human tumorigenesis. These, in turn, are utilized for the development and testing of novel treatments and therapeutics.
“I thank the Children’s Tumor Foundation for giving me the freedom to experiment and try new things to fight neurofibromatosis, for offering support when those things didn’t work, and for celebrating successes with me in accepting this award,” said Giovannini, who is also the scientific director of the UCLA Comprehensive Neurofibromatosis Program.
The award is named after Friedrich Daniel von Recklinghausen, the German physician who first described “von Recklinghausen’s disease,” or what we now know as neurofibromatosis type 1.