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Jean-Michel Foidart

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Jean-Michel Foidart

Jean-Michel Foidart

Jean-Michel Foidart is an obstetrician/gynecologist who combines his research career with major clinical responsibility. His reputation is linked to his fundamental work on the extracellular matrix of reproductive tissues and cervical cancer. He is an expert on eclampsia and on the implantation and propagation of breast cancer. A Fellow of the Collège de Belgique, he has received many Belgian and international prizes, including the Grand Prize of the Belgian National Scientific Research Center (Fonds de la Recherche scientifique) in 2005. He currently chairs the “Mother/New Born” Commission, which advises the Minister of Health on issues related to reproductive medicine.


This honorary doctorate comes in recognition of an exceptional body of work and significant contributions to gynecology/obstetrics and oncology research. What are you current research priorities?

Over the last decade we have concentrated on normal and pathological angiogenesis in neoplastic diseases, as well as precancerous pathologies and conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, endometriosis or abnormally invasive placentation (placenta percreta and accreta). A molecular dissection of the mechanisms controlling angiogenesis, lymphangiogenesis and vessel maturation helps improve control of organ growth and embryonic development and to identify dysfunctional endothelial cells and pericytes occurring in vascular diseases such as preeclampsia, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. This work also aims ultimately to asphyxiate cancerous tumors and to control better the development of various benign pathologies.

Our current research aims also to characterize a new, recently described estrogen: ESTETROL. This estrogen, produced specifically by the human fetus, is a SERM (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator). Unlike other synthetic SERMs, this estrogen-SERM seems to be a specific agonist for estrogen’s "alpha" receptor. In the breast, in particular, it behaves as an anti-estrogen, which gives it the advantage of inhibiting the proliferation of normal or cancerous breast cells, making it an anti- breast cancer agent.

Our work will focus particularly on the vascular safety and impact of this new, physiological, fetal estrogen on the properties of endothelial cells, on coronary function and on the prevention of atheroma during prolonged administration. It is therefore possible that estrogens, "demonized" by some American epidemiological tests performed using synthetic, nonphysiological hormones, ultimately prove to be highly beneficial molecules for maintaining health in aging adults.



You lead many scientific collaborations with researchers and teams from UPMC. Who do you work with specifically, and on what projects?

We have forged a significant scientific relationship between my research laboratory and Professor Philippe Bouchard’s department of Endocrinology, leading to regular publication of pre-clinical and clinical scientific studies. Professor Bouchard and I share the same medical passions: the study of SERMs’ therapeutic targets, of physiological steroids and of synthetic progestins and estrogens used in contraception and during menopause. Over the years a strong friendship has developed between members of our teams, in particular Prof. Christin-Maitre and Dr. Nathalie Chabbert-Buffet, and endocrinologist gynecologist Dr. Axelle Pintiaux from Liege, who enjoyed a long-term stay in Paris under the guidance of Professor Bouchard. She now leads our Menopause Clinic.

In addition, the team of Prof. Serge Uzan, dean of the Faculty of Medicine and head of gynecology and obstetrics at the Hôpital Tenon, works with our clinicians and researchers in the study of breast cancers with a high risk of genetic transmission. The Clinical Center, created by Professor Uzan to develop the integrated management of families carrying mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, now has an international reputation. Dr Joëlle Desreux is fortunate to have the support of Professor Uzan and his team for organizing a center in our university that can integrate in a similar fashion the special care and guidance that these patients should receive.

Furthermore, Professor Uzan and I participate together in joint research on embryo implantation, placenta vascularization and preeclampsia. It is his team that discovered the beneficial effect of low doses of aspirin in preventing preeclampsia. He is not only a brilliant dean and peerless conductor of his outstanding Faculty of Medicine, he is also a curious and hardworking master clinician, surgeon and scientist. Finally, during my career I have established professional relationships and friendships with many colleagues at UPMC. I would like to mention Professor Tabassome Simon, who works at the Hospital St Antoine department of pharmacology, and the brilliant obstetricians, Professors Jacques Miller and Bruno Carbonne.



You are a member of the European Society of Gynecology alongside Philippe Bouchard. How does this organization help strengthen links between research institutions?

The European Society of Gynecology, of which I am the current Secretary General and Professor Bouchard is a former President, is growing enormously in scope. It aims to encourage and develop exchanges between European gynecologists by sharing their medical and scientific experience and by developing teaching and experimentation in Europe in all fields of gynecology. Disciplines such as fetal medicine, obstetrics, maternal medicine, ultrasound, fetal surgery, reproductive endocrinology, pelvic and breast cancer, uro-gynecology, surgery, laser and robotics, menopause, contraception, and medically assisted reproduction have become autonomous disciplines and practitioners cannot integrate them all. The future of European gynecology and obstetrics is therefore engaged in a process of hyper-specialization, based on a common set of skills that is essential to preserve.

The organization of European congresses and collaboration with various national societies, the development of multicentric tests and broad communication within and outside the European Society of Gynecology are all essential tools for organizing the European reflection on gynecology, which we try to lead collaboratively and collegially with the European Societies in other disciplines.



How do you view UPMC’s position in the research and higher education landscape, both at the European and international levels?

Pierre & Marie Curie University is the premier university in France. It is a jewel that shines far beyond Paris, with an influence extending throughout France and all the Francophone countries. English has certainly emerged as the main tool of intercontinental scientific dialogue. However, scientific and medical thinking benefits greatly from Latin curiosity, and from UPMC’s exemplary quality of teaching and research units of excellence. It is therefore extremely important that structured relationships can be organized in higher education and research between European states. ERASMUS programs, scientific exchange programs and investment programs, and the international mobility of scientists, students and researchers all revolutionize our conception of learning and skill acquisition. It is in comparing our teaching methods, our respective research and our courses between top class universities that we can challenge our certainties, progress, and enable the development of stronger scientific, medical and intellectual generations who are better equipped in the European economic, social and ethical landscapes to become citizens of a united Europe, respectful of its differences.