Mina J. Bissell, PhD, FAACR
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) recognized Mina J. Bissell, PhD, FAACR, with the 14th AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research during the 2017 AACR Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.
The AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research was established in 2004 to honor an individual who has made significant contributions to cancer research, either through a single scientific discovery or a body of work. These contributions, whether in research, leadership, and/or mentorship, must have had a lasting impact on the cancer field and demonstrated a lifetime commitment to progress against cancer.
Dr. Bissell, distinguished scientist in the Biological Systems and Engineering Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, was honored for her pioneering work that identified the roles of the extracellular matrix and three-dimensional architecture in programs of gene expression in tissue morphogenesis and cancer. Her research contributions are widely recognized for launching the tumor microenvironment field and revolutionizing cell and cancer biologists’ perspective on the dominant forces in cancer.
“Dr. Bissell is a distinguished scientist whose groundbreaking discoveries have led to paradigm shifts in cell biology and transformed our understanding of tumor biology,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), Chief Executive Officer of the AACR. “She is celebrated by her colleagues as one of the most creative and original scientists in the field, and we are delighted to recognize her remarkable contributions with this special award.”
Champion of Cancer Research
A champion of cancer research who has focused on understanding the underlying basis of cancer initiation and progression, Dr. Bissell developed a new paradigm that a cancer cell’s microenvironment is as important to the process of carcinogenesis as the genetic defects that cause a given cell to become cancerous.
Her research on the comprehensive, biologic causes of breast cancer has sparked an increasing number of discoveries associated with how the environment and neighboring cells of a cancer cell or tumor may influence the growth and spread of those particular cells. Her group has demonstrated that tissue architecture provides cancer-driving genes with instructions. In three-dimensional cultured human cells and in animals, breast cancer cells harboring tumor-driving mutations can be induced to behave normally if their microenvironment is restored to normal. They also have shown the relevance of polarity to tumor drug resistance. Whether these findings can be extrapolated to human therapy is now being explored.
Awards and Accomplishments
Dr. Bissell has been recognized throughout her career with numerous awards, including the E.B. Wilson Medal from the American Society of Cell Biology; an Honorary Medal from the Signal Transduction Society and Cell Communication and Signaling Society; the Ernst W. Bertner Award from MD Anderson Cancer Center; the California State Assembly STEM Women of the Year Award; the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor; the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction from Susan G. Komen; and more.
She is Past President of the American Society of Cell Biology; an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society; and an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, Royal Society of Chemistry, and the National Academy of Sciences.