Mina J. Bissell, PhD
Biological Systems and Engineering Division
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
The American Association for Cancer Research Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research was first established in 2004 to honor individuals who have made significant fundamental contributions to cancer research, either through a single scientific discovery or a collective body of work. These contributions, whether they have been in research, leadership or mentorship, must have had a lasting impact on the cancer field and must have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to progress against cancer.
The AACR honors Mina Bissell for her pioneering work, which has 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 for revolutionizing cell and cancer biologists’ perspective on the dominant forces in cancer. Celebrated by her colleagues as one of the most creative and original scientists in the field, Dr. Bissell’s body of work has led to dramatic shifts in knowledge that has reshaped our understanding of tumor biology.
A Distinguished Scientist in the Biological Sciences and Engineering Division, Bissell is the only woman and the only biologist with this rank at Berkeley Lab. She is a pioneer in breast cancer research, where she has changed several established paradigms. She postulated and then proved the significance of the extracellular matrix (ECM) signaling to the nucleus, the dominance of the microenvironment and organ architecture in regulation of gene expression in both normal and malignant cells. Her laboratory developed and used novel 3D assays and techniques that demonstrate her signature phrase that after birth “phenotype is dominant over genotype.” She asks: “How else can one explain that a person’s trillions of cells- all with the same genetic sequence make the multitudes of organs and maintain organ specificity throughout life?”
Bissell earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Harvard/Radcliffe College, where she won the Medal of American Institute of Chemists, and a doctorate in microbiology and molecular genetics from Harvard Medical School. She won an American Cancer Society fellowship for her postdoctoral studies and soon after joined the Berkeley Lab. She was the first Director of the Cell and Molecular Biology Division and the Associate Laboratory Director for all Life Sciences at Berkeley Lab, where she recruited outstanding scientists and developed strong programs in cell and molecular biology and breast cancer.
As a prolific and celebrated scientist, Bissell has published more than 400 publications and has received many awards and honors including the Lawrence Award Medal, the Clowes/Eli Lilly Award, the Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award, the Brinker Komen Foundation Award, the Discovery Health Channel Medical Honor and Medal, the FASEB Excellence in Science Award, the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor, the Alexander Bodini Foundation Prize for Scientific Excellence in Medicine, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s Jill Rose Award, the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Prize from Berkeley Lab, the Ernest W. Bertner Award, MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Medal of Honor of the Signaling Society, and most recently the 2016 Wilson Medal of the American Society for Cell Biology. University of Porto, Portugal has created the Mina J. Bissell Award, given every 3 years to a person who has changed a field. She is the recipient of Honorary Doctorates from Pierre & Marie Curie University, Paris, and University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and is an elected Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, and the American Philosophical Society, among others.
Bissell is an inaugural Fellow of The AACR Academy.
Read more in the AACR Press Release.