Miller School Names Chair of Pathology

Richard J. Cote a nationally recognized expert on the cellular and molecular markers of tumor progression

Miller School of Medicine (June 29, 2009) — Richard J. Cote, M.D., a nationally recognized expert on the cellular and molecular markers of tumor progression in cancer patients has been named chair of the Department of Pathology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the University of Miami Health System, and chief of pathology for Jackson Memorial Hospital. He will also start and direct the University of Miami Biomedical Nanoscience Institute.

Cote had been at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California for the past 18 years, where he was professor of pathology and urology and director of the Genitourinary Cancer Program at USC/Norris Cancer Center. He also directed the Laboratory of Immuno and Molecular Pathology. In 2005 he started and was the director of the Biomedical Nanoscience Program at USC.

“Richard Cote is an expert pathologist with tremendous leadership and organizational skills, internationally recognized for his work in the investigation and clinical assessment of disorders based on biopsy, tissue analysis and other fluid patterns,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Miller School. “He is a visionary leader and a pioneer with great achievements in the area of nanotechnology, and the molecular biology of cancer. He will be taking the department, its faculty, staff and training program from the wonderful quality achieved by Azorides Morales to the next step, making it a top department of pathology in the United States and the world.”

Cote says he is moving to Miami because “the recent transformation and growth taking place at the University of Miami and the Miller School of Medicine is nothing short of extraordinary, and the opportunity to be a part of this incredible acceleration is unique.”

The hospitals were also a big draw. “We have one of the largest county hospitals (Jackson Memorial Hospital) which has always been a focus of patient care and highly regarded as a wonderful training center. The University of Miami Hospital will allow us to expand the clinical enterprise, and the Sylvester Cancer Center has made enormous leaps in its academic mission, particularly in lymphoma, breast and urologic cancers.”

A major research area for Cote has been the molecular biology of prostate and bladder cancer. His lab has identified the pathways by which cells become malignant, and the mechanisms by which the tumors progress.

“We have also taken this another step further by looking at the mechanisms by which cancers respond or do not respond to therapies,” explains Cote. “It’s not enough to know it’s a cancer - now we need to know if it is likely to progress, if it is going to respond to treatment and how we can most effectively and specifically intervene in the treatment of that particular patient’s cancer. This is the key to individualized patient-specific therapy for cancer and other diseases.”

Cote has led three of the largest clinical trials in breast, lung and bladder cancer, which were based on discoveries from his research that identified molecules and pathways important in assessing treatment response.

A long standing area of focus has been to detect the earliest evidence of tumor spread into blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes in patients with no other evidence of metastatic disease from breast, lung and prostate cancer.

“We have developed novel technologies that allow us to detect the earliest manifestations of metastasis in ways not previously possible. Such detection will be critically important in understanding who is at risk for developing overt metastatic disease. Further, these technologies will allow us to determine if the therapies we provide to patients with cancer are actually working, far sooner than current methods of therapeutic assessment.”

Cote says that is where nanotechnology plays a huge role. Nanotechnology is the science of using nanometer-scale materials and devices. For perspective, a nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter, much smaller than the diameter of a human hair. “We are taking advantage of very small materials to create tiny devices that can detect cancer and other diseases.” For example, Cote and his colleagues are constructing devices that may be capable of performing hundreds of tests using only a pin prick of blood, rather than performing only a few tests on much larger blood volumes. In another application, he and his collaborators are constructing devices capable of capturing tumor cells in the blood.

Cote received his medical degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in 1980. He did a surgical internship at the University of Michigan, a residency in pathology at Cornell University Medical College, and research fellowships at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and New York University School of Medicine. Cote also did a clinical fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, serving as chief fellow, before moving to USC.

Cote is the recipient of over $35 million in peer reviewed grant support, and holds numerous patents for cancer related and nanoscale technologies. He is the author of over 300 publications, and is the editor and co-author of the standard textbooks “Immuno Microscopy: A Diagnostic Tool for the Surgical Pathologist” (now in its third edition), and “Modern Surgical Pathology,” the second edition of which will be out later this year. He also serves as a member and advisor to a large number of national and international study groups, cancer programs and societies, including the National Cancer Institute. He is the founder of several technology-based companies, including Impath, Inc. and Clarient. He is listed in “Best Doctors in America” and “America’s Top Doctors” and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathology.

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Richard J. Cote, M.D.

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