Mina Bissell studies how cancer interacts with our bodies, searching for clues to how cancer's microenvironment influences its growth.

Why you should listen

Mina Bissell's groundbreaking research has proven that cancer is not only caused by cancer cells. It is caused by an interaction between cancer cells and the surrounding cellular micro-environment. In healthy bodies, normal tissue homeostasis and architecture inhibit the progression of cancers. But changes in the microenvironment--following an injury or a wound for instance--can shift the balance. This explains why many people harbor potentially malignant tumors in their bodies without knowing it and never develop cancer, and why tumors often develop when tissue is damaged or when the immune system is suppressed.

The converse can also be true. In a landmark 1997 experiment, mutated mammary cells, when dosed with an antibody and placed into a normal cellular micro-environment, behaved normally. This powerful insight from Bissell's lab may lead to new ways of treating existing and preventing potential cancers.

What others say

“Bissell was not the first to claim that a cell's microenvironment plays a role in the formation of tumors. But she showed how this happens...Still, she modestly maintains that her most important contribution is that she hammered away at her point for thirty years.” — Kara Platoni, East Bay Express

Mina Bissell’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Mina Bissell


Rethinking cancer treatment: 9 great talks, plus 1 book

July 16, 2012

Mina Bissell was not always the most popular person in the field of cancer research. After studying chemistry in college and getting her Ph.D. in bacteriology, the leading theory on how cancer develops — that a single cancer gene in just one of the body’s trillion cells is enough to cause the disease — simply […]

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