For pioneering studies on the tumor microenvironment, and for determining the roles of matrix metalloproteinases and immune cells in promoting tumor progression and defining the importance of chronic inflammation in cancer, thus identifying therapeutic targets for intervention.
An internationally heralded cancer biologist, Dr. Coussens has greatly contributed to the fundamental understanding of the numerous functions of matrix metalloproteinases and immune cells in fostering carcinogenesis, tumor cell survival, and metastasis. She has demonstrated that both lymphoid and myeloid cells possess the ability to not only suppress cancer, but also to promote tumors in select tissues. Her contributions to the chronic inflammation and basic cancer biology fields have been seminal, while her dissections of the interactions between immune cells in various cancers have effectively transformed the tumor immunology field.
By demonstrating the importance of chronic leukocyte infiltration in neoplastic tissues, Dr. Coussens delineated the mechanisms by which normal antitumor responses switch and instead begin to favor protumor conditions in multiple solid tumor types. Specifically, she defined a protumorigenic role for Th2-CD4+ T lymphocytes in promoting neoplastic properties of tumor associated macrophages (TAMs). Her research revealed that TAM recruitment to primary tumor sites results in increased expression of growth factors and proteolytic enzymes that together foster neoplastic cell proliferation and invasion, as well as cytokines that suppress dendritic cell maturation and subsequent antigen presentation to T cells.
Furthermore, she demonstrated that macrophage and T lymphocyte infiltration of primary tumors can serve as prognostic biomarkers in breast, pancreas and head & neck carcinomas. These findings underlie her experimental findings that the tumor immune microenvironment is critical for regulating response to chemotherapies, that invariably induce epithelial cell expression of colony stimulating factor 1 (CSF1), resulting in enhanced monocyte recruitment and differentiation of macrophages within tumor microenvironments. Concordantly, by combining CSF1/CSF1 receptor-signaling antagonists with chemotherapy in vivo, Dr. Coussens confirmed that mammary carcinoma survival rates could be improved by effectively reprogramming the immune response to inhibit tumor cell survival in a CD8+ T-cell-dependent manner. In subsequent translational studies, Dr. Coussens’ research also highlighted therapeutic efficacy for immune response modulators in mesothelioma, head and neck, pancreatic and squamous tumors, which has since provided the basis for several phase I/II clinical trials evaluating immune modulation in combination with standard-of-care chemotherapy.
2022-2023 President, AACR
2018 Elected Fellow, American Association for Advancement of Science
2018 Career Award, European Academy of Tumor Immunology, Paris, France
2018 Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science, Susan G. Komen Foundation
2018 AACR-Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship, American Association for Cancer Research
2017 Women of Distinction in Science and Medicine, Barts Cancer Institute, London, United Kingdom
2015 Rosalind E. Franklin Award for Women in Science, National Cancer Institute
2012 AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Lectureship, American Association for Cancer Research
2012 Inaugural Mildred Scheel Lectureship, German Cancer Research Center
2008-2011 Board of Directors, American Association for Cancer Research
2006-2016 Era of Hope Scholar Expansion Award, Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program
2002 AACR-Gertrude Elion Cancer Research Award, American Association for Cancer Research
2000-2003 Scholar Award, Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr Foundation
2000-2002 Hellman Fellow, Hellman Foundation
2000-2001 V Foundation Scholar, The V Foundation for Cancer Research