Lombardi was leading scholar on liver cancer research

Benito Lombardi, called “one of the pillars of research on liver cancer” by his former colleague and current chair of pathology in the School of Medicine, George K. Michalopoulos, died Jan. 24, 2020, at 91.

Lombardi joined the department in the early 1970s and retired in 1995 but continued to attend pathology seminars at the school for years, Michalopoulos recalled. “He’s been extremely well recognized as an outstanding researcher,” Michalopoulos said.

Lombardi researched characteristics of the early forms of liver cancer, using pre-cancerous indicators in mice and rats to chart the stages of cancer development.

“He had a defining role in the whole direction of liver cancer research at that time,” Michalopoulos said. “He carved a pathway for many other investigators to follow in this area.”

When Michalopoulos began as chair in 1991, he didn’t have administrative experience. But he remembered the help he received from Lombardi: “He was always guiding me, giving advice.” In fact, Lombardi mentored many faculty through the years, the chair added.

Born near Venice, Italy, Lombardi received his medical degree from the University of Padua. His academic career included stints at institutions in Toronto in the mid-1950s, and in Cleveland.

While at Pitt, he was a member of the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. In 2008, his department created the Lombardi and Shinozuka Experimental Pathology Research Chair in recognition of contributions that he and his long-time research collaborator, Hisashi Shinozuka, made to the field of experimental pathology.

Lombardi is survived by his daughters, Gabriella (Lella) and Laura, brother Mariano and an extended family of nieces, nephews and their children in Italy. Memorial donations are suggested to the Alzheimer’s Association.

— Marty Levine