Passing of Filippo Giancotti, MD, PhD

It is with great sadness that we announce that Dr. Filippo Giancotti passed away this past weekend. A pre-eminent scientist, educator, mentor, collaborator and visionary leader, Dr. Giancotti made contributions to cancer biology, specifically cancer metastasis, that were foundational and established fundamental principles therein. In the time since Dr. Giancotti arrived at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) and our Department of Genetics and Development, he became a beloved and admired member of our scientific and educational communities. He will be deeply missed by many, many colleagues here at CUIMC and across the institutions he enriched during his distinguished and widely influential career.

Dr. Giancotti received his MD from the University of Torino in Italy, followed by board-certified training in hematology-oncology and a PhD (cell biology) also at the University of Torino. From 1988 to 1991, he did a postdoctoral research fellowship in cellular adhesion and signaling at La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation in California. From 1991 to 1996, he was Assistant Professor of Pathology at New York University and became Associate Professor in 1996 before being recruited to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he rose to Professor at the Gerstner Sloan-Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences with a dual appointment as Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College. He was a member in the Center for Metastasis Research at MSKCC and adjunct member in the Cell Biology program. This led to his recruitment in 2016 to the MD Anderson Cancer Center as Scientific Director of the David H. Koch Center for Applied Research of Genitourinary Cancers, Co-Leader of the Prostate Cancer Moonshot Program, and the Olla S. Stribling Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research and Professor with tenure in the Department of Cancer Biology. We were fortunate and overjoyed to recruit Dr. Giancotti and his lab in September 2021 as Herbert and Florence Irving Professor in Basic Science (Cancer) in the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, Professor of Genetics and Development, and Leader of the Tumor Metastasis Initiative in HICCC.

His first laboratory at NYU elucidated key signaling pathways activated by integrins and started to define their role in cancer cells. At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, his lab introduced in mice mutations in integrins and integrin signaling components and obtained evidence that integrin signaling is required for both tumor initiation and progression. In addition, he shed light on the mechanism by which Merlin/NF2 mediates contact inhibition and suppresses tumorigenesis. He developed novel forward genetic screens in the mouse that enable the identification of genes that enforce metastatic dormancy (he pioneered this concept) and of genes that promote metastatic reactivation. Overall, the major goal of his laboratory was to elucidate the mechanisms that govern metastasis in breast, pancreatic and prostate cancer. In that context, his research in stem cells, epithelial plasticity, and metastatic niches was profoundly impactful. Dr. Giancotti and his group had more than 100 publications in leading journals such as Cell, Cancer Cell, Cancer Discovery, Nature Cell Biology, PNAS, and others. His influence was evident in his invitations to write reviews and commentaries, numbering nearly 40, and giving lectures at conferences and other universities. Among his numerous honors and awards were the NIH merit award, NCI outstanding investigator award and CPRIT grant.  

Known as a caring educator and mentor, numerous students and postdoctoral fellows owe their career development to him. He was a generous collaborator and colleague, who was executing a vision related to an HICCC initiative in tumor metastasis. We will do our best to carry out his legacy. He was a gentle, compassionate scientist and humanitarian, and we will miss him dearly and express our deepest condolences to his wife, children, extended family and a vast community of admiring colleagues and friends.


Katrina Armstrong, MD
Dean of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, Columbia University

Anil K. Rustgi, MD
Herbert and Florence Irving Director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center
Chief of Cancer Services, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Gerard Karsenty, MD, PhD
Paul A. Marks, MD, Professor of Genetics and Development, Medicine, and Biomedical Engineering
Chair of the Department of Genetics and Development