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A beautiful life dedicated to breast cancer prevention research

Janssens, Jaak Ph.

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European Journal of Cancer Prevention: December 2021 - Volume 31 - Issue - p S2
doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0000000000000730
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Jose Russo (1942 – 2021)

On September 24 2021, the world of cancer prevention received extremely gloomy news: Prof. Jose Russo was not among us anymore. Not totally unexpected but definitely too soon. At the edge of implementation, he left us with a huge legacy. The origin of breast cancer unraveled. Up to the finest molecular details. Jose and his wife Irma, dedicated their lives to scientific research excellence for the benefit of future generations.

Born near the city of Mendoza in Argentine, he met Irma in 1961 in the Medical School and married in 1969. This inseparable couple would have an unprecedented family and professional life in Philadelphia from 1972 onwards and later resided in Tudor House in Cross Pointe Park (Michigan), where there was always a warm welcome.

The Breast Cancer Research Laboratory emerged as the leading place for prevention knowledge. The discovery of glandular maturation of the breast and the inverse relationship with cancer risk has been a milestone for everyone in the field and in particular, for generations of young women trying to escape cancer.


The Russos were asked to present their data in the most prestigious centers, universities, and international meetings. It is during these contacts that many of us learned the warm characters of both of them. A mixture of exquisite competence, unlimited knowledge, humbleness, and above all true friendship.

The Russos were at home in the European Cancer Prevention Organization and the organization extracted as much as possible valued information to support international projects and clinical studies. But more than scientists, Jose and Irma were the best friends you could count on. Always warm, friendly, encouraging, and there whenever needed.

From year to year, knowledge and experience accumulated and new evidence was added to the concept of breast cancer prevention through simulation of early pregnancy. A paradigm that forever will be connected with the Fox Chase Cancer Center and specifically to Jose and Irma.

While only the sky seemed to be the limit to their contributions, disaster struck. Irma died on June 25, 2013. Physically and mentally broken, Jose rebuilt his life slowly and believed firmly that real breast cancer prevention was close to be a reality. Together with the Fox Chase Cancer Center, the Irma Russo Breast Cancer Research Laboratory, the European Cancer Prevention Organization, Belgian Universities and research laboratories, Jose set up an ambitious program to finally treat young women at high risk for breast cancer and give them life time protection.

Then, while the first strong data emerged, the second tragedy struck. However, Jose continued to lead the research program with even more strength, despite his health challenges. Even in the final days and despite the pandemic, we had our excellent monthly science meeting with this passionate and courageous scientist. Until suddenly he did not show up anymore.

It is our, friends and colleagues, privilege to remember both Jose and Irma as exemplary highest ranked scientists that changed the paradigms of breast cancer prevention and brought this paramount legacy up to the final clinical stage for many generations to come.

Jose, on behalf of the European Cancer Prevention Organization, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you have done for our society.

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