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In Memoriam, Franco M. Muggia, MD, 1936 – 2021

Sep 16, 2021

SGO is paying tribute to SGO member, Franco M. Muggia, MD, who died on Sept. 8, 2021. He was 85 years old.

Dr. Muggia’s last position was as a medical oncologist at Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Medical Center and a professor in the Department of Medicine at New York University Langone Health in New York, NY.

Dr. Muggia was born in 1936 in Turin, Italy. Muggia’s family left Italy due to Mussolini’s rise to power and traveled to Quito, Ecuador. Muggia pursued his studies at Yale University after immigrating to the United States in 1952 followed by earning his medical degree at Weill Cornell Medical College (now Weill Cornell Medicine) in New York, NY. Dr. Muggia completed internship training at Bellevue Hospital, residency at Hartford Hospital, and a hematology-oncology fellowship at Columbia University.

Most notably, Dr. Muggia’s contributions to science include identifying platinum, pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (PLD) and other important treatments for Gynecologic Oncology. His prestigious career included the role of a Principal Investigator to multiple NIH/NCI sponsored grants, Associate Director of the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program of the NIH from 1975-1979, and an academic medical career spanning nearly five decades.

SGO President Elect I Stephanie Blank, MD, at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, NY, described Dr. Muggia’s lasting impact.

“Dr. Franco Muggia’s legacy lives on in all of the people’s lives he has touched, from those he treated, to colleagues, trainees and mentees, to every oncologist whose practices are likely influenced in some way by his life’s work,” said Dr. Blank. “He knew everyone in the field, and was always introducing, coming up with new ideas and collaborating. The most generous and wise mentor and sponsor. He truly loved his work and his excitement about the next great trial, the newest findings, was palpable. I feel truly lucky to have known him for 20 years and miss him already.”

He was Director of Oncology at New York University and at University of Southern California, as well as Chairman and Medical Director of the Chemotherapy Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention and management of cancer and the support of innovative treatment research, since 2005. He served as the Medical Oncology committee chair and co-chair of the Gynecologic Oncology Group (Now, The GOG Foundation, Inc.) from 1992- 2015.

Past SGO President John Curtin, MD, at DenverHealth remembers Dr. Muggia as “always generous with his time whether it was for his patients, colleagues, nurses or trainees. He actively participated in regional, national and international organizations focusing on improving the outcome for patients with gynecologic cancers. He did all of this with humility and grace.”

As a medical oncologist, Dr. Muggia provided tremendous care to patients and believed in adapting treatment based on patient needs, while also taking time to understand the patients’ preferences. He recognized the importance implementing therapies for women with gynecologic malignancies and analyzing strategies to improve the way professionals approach cancer care treatments. Some of his research centered on gene mutations, which led to very telling results in early cancer detection and targeted treatments, such as hormonal therapy.

In 2019, he received the SGO Harry J. Long Multidisciplinary Award for his contribution to mentorship and teaching in gynecologic oncology. Bhavana Pothuri, MD, at NYU School of Medicine was a mentee of Dr. Muggia in her early career.

“Dr. Muggia was my dear friend and mentor and introduced me and countless other physicians and trainees to the important world of clinical trials and clinical trial management,” said Dr. Pothuri. “He was my mentor for the NIH CRADL award when I was a junior attending; he has shared his strength and passion for clinical trials ever since. Dr. Muggia’s cancer treatment philosophy and approach helped us understand the significant impact of clinical research and the benefits that clinical trials bring to gynecologic cancer patients.”

Dr. Muggia took great pride in mentoring and teaching the next generation of oncologists knowing those fellows will continue to influence the lives of thousands more. He received the Lifetime Achievement award from the New York Cancer Consortium in 2012.

“Franco was the consummate physician: an incredible clinician, educator and researcher.  His kind and gentle manner was combined with an incredible enthusiasm to search for new ways to improve his patient’s lives. He was a wonderful role model.  I will miss him terribly, but I am so glad he’s passed along his legacy to so many trainees over the years,” remembers Leslie R. Boyd, MD, at Perlmutter Cancer Center, NYU Langone.

In 2010, he received an award of merit from the National Institutes of Health for his role as editor-in-chief of PDQ® Adult Treatment Editorial Board, in which a group of experts edit cancer treatment summaries every month based on the latest cancer treatment research findings. He also served on the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Cancer Education Committee and was an editorial board member of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, as well as the first editor of its Spanish edition. You can read more about Dr. Muggia’s achievements and life-long passion to help patients with cancer, here.

Dr. Muggia is survived by his wife Anna, their daughters; Diana, Vickie, Paola, and Julia; 10 grandchildren, and his older brother, Albert.