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Mina Bissell

breast cancer researcher / geneticist: Biosciences

Media contact: Dan Krotz, 510-486-4019,


Dr. Bissell is a pioneer in the area of the role of extracellular matrix (ECM) and microenvironment in regulation of tissue-specific function with special emphasis in breast cancer, where she has changed some established paradigms.

After serving as the Life Sciences Division Director, she was named Distinguished Scientist. She is a member of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco and on the faculty of four graduate groups, Comparative Biochemistry, Endocrinology, Molecular Toxicology, and Bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

She is also the OBER/DOE Distinguished Scientist Fellow in Life Sciences, a member of 5 international scientific boards, and on the editorial board of a dozen scientific journals, including Science magazine.

Her laboratory was one of the first to show that extracellular matrix (ECM) and microenvironment signaling are crucial regulators of tissue-specificity and cancer.  Her work has proven the importance of tissue polarity in response to chemotherapeutic agents.  

She is currently studying the molecular mechanism of how the tissue architecture and microenvironment regulate growth, quiescence and tissue-specific gene expression in both normal and malignant tissues.

Dr. Bissell was elected as a Fellow of AAAS, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry. She served as President of the American Society of Cell Biology and the International Society of Differentiation. She has received honorary doctorates from Pierre & Marie Curie University in Paris and the University of Copenhagen.

Recent Publications

Her work is all encompassing and many of her papers (more than 320, many in top tiered journals) have been termed milestones in cell and cancer biology by Nature magazines.

Awards and Memberships

  • Elected to the National Academy of Sciences
  • The Lawrence Award and medal
  • The Mellon Award from the University of Pittsburgh
  • The Eli Lilly/Clowes Award from AACR
  • The first “Innovator Award” of the US DOD for breast cancer research
  • The Brinker Award from Komen Foundation
  • The Discovery Health Channel Medical Honor and medal
  • The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center Ted Couch Lectureship and Award
  • The Pezcoller Foundation–AACR International Award for Cancer Research
  • The 2007 Inserm International Annual Award
  • The 2008 Excellence in Science Award from FASEB
  • The 2008 American Cancer Society's Medal of Honor for Basic Research Award.
  • In Portugal, in 2008, an award was named after her. The ‘Mina J. Bissell’ Award will be given every other year to a person who has changed our perception of a field and/or ushering a new field.


Ph.D., Bacterial Genetics, Harvard University


Science at the Theater, Health Detectives: Uncovering the Mysteries of Disease, April 23, 2012

Mina joins other Berkeley Lab life scientists to discuss how they uncover the mysteries of disease in unlikely places. Mina discussed her pioneering research on the role of the cellular microenvironment in breast cancer has changed the conversation about the disease.

last updated: 2017-08-04 10:31:33