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Massimo Crespi is Head of the Service of Environmental Carcinogenesis, Epidemiology and Prevention at the National Cancer Institute "Regina Elena" in Rome, Italy and Professor of GI Oncology at the Postgraduate School of Gastroenterology at the University of Roma "La Sapienza". He trained mostly in Rome and a specialist in Gastroenterology, Liver and Metabolic Diseases and Clinical Oncology. He did most of his clinical and scientific work in GI cancer prevention, detection and diagnosis, being one of the first in Italy using digestive endoscopy for screening and early diagnosis. This approach was used extensively in population surveys in Iran, China, Somalia and South America. Among positions he has held are: President of the European Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ESGE), President of the Organization Mondiale d'Endoscopie Digestive (OMED), and Chairman of the United European Gastroenterology Federation (UEGF). He is the author of more than 225 scientific papers in Italian and international Journals.
- What made you decide to become a gastroenterologist?
- I was fascinated by the possible applications of GI endoscopy as they were emerging in the late sixties. My initial work was, instead, in hepatology and, more specifically, on bile acids. Our group was among the first to separate and measure the different bile acids in bile by gas-chromatography.
- Who was the teacher you admired the most?
- Apart from my teachers here in Rome, Professors M. Messini ad G. Ricci, I very much admired B. Moulinier and R. Lambert in Lyon and H. Popper in New York.
- Which research paper influenced you the most?
- Joint Iran/IARC Study Group. Oesophageal cancer studies in the Caspian Littoral of Iran: results of population studies - a prodrome. JNCI 1977; 59: 1127-38. It stimulated me in developing further research in that area.
- What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
- I would say that our first description of the peculiar patterns of chronic esophagitis in the high incidence areas for esophageal cancer in Iran and China was one of the most successful pieces of research, because that lesion is the breeding ground for dysplasia and cancer (N. Munoz, M. Crespi et al. Lancet 1982, April 17: 876-79).
- What is the biggest mistake that you have made?
- Not to take the chance, during or after my postgraduate training in Italy, of a long training period in the USA nor to look into the possibility of building my professional career there.
- What is your unfulfilled ambition?
- I have to mention two: a) to see the Minimal Standard Terminology for endoscopic reporting that a panel I chaired of the European Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy has created and validated, in agreement with the American Society (ASGE), used worldwide; b) to create a viable and attractive UEGF website where all the scientific presentations and accepted posters at the annual UEGW can be displayed by electronic submission of whole text and slides. This would constitute a permanent, updated "virtual congress", where the best research presented at UEGW's will be available in real time to the international scientific community through a discussion forum.
- What is your greatest regret?
- When H. pylori surfaced as a major health concern and also as a possible causative agent of gastric cancer, I made the mistake in not following the mainstream of uncritical believers in the H. pylori/cancer relationship. Instead I joined the few critical voices posting a word of warning not to accept easy, unsound scientific explanations and trying to highlight the many unresolved questions which shade doubts on a strict relationship between H. pylori and gastric malignancies. In following the large crowd of "believers", I would have benefited from invitations to lavish meetings and of easy access to corporate grant support.
- How do you relax?
- Cooking good meals for friends, cycling in Villa Borghese and taking pictures with my Nikon camera.
- What is your favorite sport?
- Sailing my sailboat around in the Mediterranean: mostly a dream, at the moment, due to lack of time.
- What is your best place in the world?
- In Italy, the island of Ponza, not far away from the coast South of Rome. Abroad, the Baja Caliornia and Mexico in general.
- What is your favorite film?
- "Mephisto", because it clearly shows how easily an intellectual may become a puppet in the hands of politicians. It is an important warning for all of us not to give up our scientific integrity.
- What car do you drive?
- A small Renault Clio. After being directly involved in car racing in my youth. Wisdom comes with age!
- What is your best electronic 'toy'?
- My laptop computer - I'm still in a learning phase.
- What book are you reading at the moment?
- "The Real History of Long John Silver" by B. Larson: a fascinating, adventurous book with deep cultural roots.
- Why did you get in involved in GastroHep.com?
- Because Professor Pounder kindly invited me, and because I have the aim to further enlarge the scope and audience of the UEGF website and the use of the Minimal Standard Terminology.