Lisa M. Coussens, PhD, MD (hc), FAACR

Lisa M. Coussens, PhD, MD (hc), FAACR

Professor (Tenured) and Chair, Cell, Developmental, and Cancer Biology Department and Associate Director for Basic Research
Knight Cancer Institute, Oregon Health and Science University
Portland, Oregon

Adjunct Professor
University of California
San Francisco, California

Vision Statement

The last 50 years of cancer research have provided us remarkable insights into genomic aberrations driving malignancy resulting in fruitful efforts toward developing numerous targeted therapies that have impacted outcomes for many cancer patients. Those tumor cell-intrinsic discoveries preceded a more recent appreciation of the role played by diverse repertoires of normal (non-neoplastic) cell types and their environments in potentiating cancerous processes; these also have yielded drugs targeting tumor microenvironments including angiogenic vasculature and tumor immunity, with a recent explosion of immunotherapy that has forever changed cancer medicine.

Through all of these breakthroughs, the AACR provided the stage for communicating our innovative basic science discoveries and, more recently, their translation to the clinical arena. I believe the AACR again remains poised to bolster the basic, translational, and clinical cancer communities in our mission to further discoveries into the underpinnings of cancer, exploration of novel druggable targets, as well as uncovering the rich genetic variation in diverse populations that predispose and protect from cancer. This exciting vista of possibility, however, is at a crossroads; we are seeing unprecedented numbers of our peers leaving science and a worrisome decrease in trainees entering. Funding is threatened and morale has been shaken by an undermining of the sanctity of science at the highest levels. The May 25th death of George Floyd at the hands of police has created a reckoning with race-based health disparities that is fueling a moral imperative for change. Now is a critical time for the AACR to again provide a stage for our research and our voices as we break through these barriers and regain public trust to realize the promise of cancer prevention and treatment that is now within our grasp.

Research is leading us out of the pandemic. Not only health care workers but also biomedical scientists in lab coats and face shields are today’s superheroes. Research, with cancer research occupying a central space, can fuel much-needed social change and be leveraged as a powerful recruiting tool, starting as early as high school, to convince students—especially students from underserved communities—to persist in the sciences, not only rebuilding our trainee population but building back stronger. As grueling as this past year has been, our collective momentum can be harnessed to implement these goals and re-energize our communities. Collectively, we can do this, because cancer and the outcomes for cancer patients play out at the intersection of life choices, heredity, health status, and access, all of which are impacted by structural racism and the social determinants of health.

While we now appreciate that diverse cell populations contribute to cancer, we also understand that progress in the fight against cancer is driven by an equally diverse group of scientists, clinicians, advocates, and educators committed to increasing diversity, representation, and access throughout the scientific community. As a woman who has forged alliances, and found my voice and my stride in a challenging landscape, I offer my lived experience to collaborate and open doors to remove barriers. Together we will regain public trust by making an impact and telling our stories to a broader audience so that more communities than ever before benefit on equal platforms.

Research Interests

Cancer biology; tumor immunology; cancer‐associated inflammation; tumor microenvironments; cancer therapeutics; cancer biomarkers; mouse models of cancer; junior faculty and trainee mentoring; academic program development

Previous Positions

Professor (tenured) (2007-2012) and associate professor (tenured) (2006-2007), Department of Pathology and Cancer Research Institute; associate professor in residence (2004-2006) and assistant professor in residence (1999-2004), Cancer Research Institute and Department of Pathology; assistant research biochemist, Hormone Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco (1997-1999), San Francisco, California; research associate, Molecular and Developmental Biology, Genentech Inc. (1981-1988), South San Francisco, California

Postdoctoral Training

Postdoctoral fellow, Cancer Biology, University of California, San Francisco (1993-1997), San Francisco, California

Selected AACR Service, Honors, and Awards

Elected fellow, AACR Academy (2019); co-organizer, Special Conference, “Carcinoma in situ” (2022); chair (2020-2021) and member (2016-2018), AACR NextGen Grants for Transformative Cancer Research Scientific Review Committee; course codirector, AACR Translational Cancer Research for Basic Scientists Workshop (2020); cochair (2018-2019, 2012, 2010, 2008), and member (2006, 2003), Annual Meeting Program Committee; member, Satellite Educational Symposia Committee (2018-2019); scientific editor, Cancer Discovery (2017-present); member, Search Committee for editor-in-chief of Cancer Research (2017); member, Special Conferences Committee (2016-2019, 2007-2010); member, Nominating Committee (2016-2018); member, AACR Cancer Progress Report Steering Committee (2016); member, Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) Innovative Research Grants Committee (2015-2016); member, Annual Meeting Education Committee (2015-2016, 2009); member, Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research Committee (2015); member, AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship Award Committee (2014); member, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network-AACR Innovative Grants Scientific Review Committee (2014); senior editor, Cancer Immunology Research (2012-present); recipient, AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship (2012); member, AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research Committee (2010); member, Women in Cancer Research Council (2010-2012); member, Board of Directors (2008-2011)

Selected Non-AACR Service, Honors, and Awards

Komen Scholar, Susan G. Komen® Foundation (2020-2023); TEFAF oncology chair, Maastricht University, The Netherlands (2019-2020); recipient, Frank and Shirley Fitch Lectureship in Tumor Immunology, Ben May Cancer Center, University of Chicago (2019); recipient, Edward J. Sarcione Excellence in Immunology Lecture, Roswell Park Cancer Center, Buffalo, New York (2019); elected fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2018); recipient, Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science, Susan G. Komen® Foundation (2018); recipient, Doctor in Medicine (honoris causa), University of Buenos Aires, Argentina (2017); recipient, Distinguished Women in Science Lecture, Barts Cancer Institute Queen Mary, University of London (2017); member, Frederick National Laboratory Advisory Committee, NIH/NCI Division of Extramural Activities (2016-present); recipient, Rosalind E. Franklin Award for Women in Science, National Cancer Institute (NCI) (2015); recipient, American Cancer Society/Society of Surgical Oncology Basic Science Lectureship, Society for Surgical Oncology (2013); member, Scientific Review Board, The V Foundation for Cancer Research (2013-present); member, Scientific Advisory Committee, Cancer Research Institute (2013-present); recipient, Mildred Scheel Memorial Lectureship, German Cancer Aid (2012); recipient, KOMEN Promise Award, Susan G. Komen® for the Cure Foundation (2011-2016); recipient, Era of Hope Scholar Award, Department of Defense, Breast Cancer Research Program (2006-2016)


PhD, biological chemistry, University of California, Los Angeles, California (1993); BA, biology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California (1980)