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Research unit director

Jean-François Côté, PhD

  • Director, Cancer and Genetic Diseases research division
  • Director, Cytoskeletal Organization and Cell Migration research unit
  • Full IRCM Research Professor
  • Vice President, Research and Academic Affairs
  • Full research professor, Department of Medicine (accreditation in molecular biology, and in biochemistry and molecular medicine), Université de Montréal
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Medicine (Division of Experimental Medicine), McGill University
  • Research Scholar, Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé
  • Holder of the Transat Chair in breast cancer research

The dynamic and constant reorganization of the actin skeleton leads to changes in the appearance of cells, from round to elongated. These cell metamorphoses are essential to normal biological processes like cell motility and muscle and kidney development. In cancer, remodelling of the cell skeleton is directly involved in metastasis, a destructive event that puts patients’ survival at risk.

Dr. Côté is interested in understanding signalling pathways that control cell migration, primarily through the reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton. One of the team’s major projects focuses on the protein complex DOCK180/ELMO and the activation of Rac in cytoskeletal reorganization, leading to the directional migration of cells. These proteins are essential to various physiological processes and are also directly involved in the motility of cancer cells. The unit is engaged in multidisciplinary studies using biochemical, cellular, genetic and structural approaches, with the objective of dissecting the molecular mechanisms that control cytoskeletal organization. In cancer, cell migration, commonly known as invasion by cancer cells, makes a substantial contribution to the progression of tumours to the metastatic stage. The oncogens HER-2 and Axl are frequently mutated and/or amplified in breast cancer. Tumours that test positive for HER-2 and Axl are frequently fatal, as they are aggressive and metastatic. The team is studying the signalling pathways that promote this cell invasion with the aim of identifying pharmacologic targets for treating these invasive tumours.

Awards and honours

  • 2013 Pierre-Bois Excellence Award, IRCM Foundation

Degrees and relevant experience

  • PhD in biochemistry, McGill University (1996-2001)
  • Postdoctoral fellowship, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, California, USA
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