Keynote Speaker: Lewis Cantley, Ph.D., Director, Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medical College
Professor and Jack Schultz Chair in Basic Science at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
The Szent-Györgyi Prize Selection Committee recognizes Beatrice Mintz, Ph.D., for her discoveries regarding the relationship between development and cancer, based on construction and analysis of chimeric and transgenic mouse models. Her work has enabled the study of cancer and other genetic diseases to be carried out within the framework of the whole organism.
Dr. Mintz first analyzed development by producing chimeric individuals in which genetically different cells coexisted throughout life. She found that normal development is based on an expanding clonal organization in which a succession of small numbers of stem cells are competent to divide or to differentiate further. In cancer, the differentiation option is diminished, while the capacity to divide increases. Thus, cancer may be regarded as an aberration of development.
Dr. Mintz was also the first to discover the importance of the microenvironment in the behavior of stem cells in the organism. Her experiments showed that when stem cells from a teratocarcinoma, a type of tumor derived from a “multipotent” stem cell, were transferred into a normal early embryo, those cells contributed, along with host cells, to development of the wide range of normally functioning tissues. This “normalization” of the tumor stem cells is attributable to the normal microenvironment in which they were placed, and this understanding has influenced many fields of biology.
The first transgenic model of malignant melanoma was produced in Dr. Mintz’s lab. This genetically engineered model is currently the only one that encompasses different subtypes of primary skin melanomas, which undergo widespread metastasis, thereby mirroring the disease in people.
Dr. Mintz is a Professor and the Jack Schultz Chair in Basic Science at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and taught at the University of Chicago before joining Fox Chase.