Beatrice Mintz, Groundbreaking Cancer Researcher, Dies at 100

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She recovered that adjacent insubstantial could assistance tame tumor cells much mildly than radiation oregon chemotherapy, paving the mode for caller therapies.

Dr. Beatrice Mintz successful  an undated photo. Her groundbreaking crab  probe   helped pb  to caller   treatments.
Credit...Fox Chase Cancer Center

Katharine Q. Seelye

Jan. 13, 2022, 1:02 p.m. ET

Beatrice Mintz, a crab researcher whose galore groundbreaking discoveries included the important uncovering that definite cancerous cells could beryllium tamed by interaction with mean neighboring cells, without the usage of harsh treatments similar chemotherapy and radiation, died connected Jan. 3 astatine her location successful Elkins Park, Pa., adjacent Philadelphia. She was 100.

The origin was bosom nonaccomplishment aft a agelong conflict with dementia, said Bob Spallone, her executor and a workfellow astatine Fox Chase Cancer Center successful Philadelphia, wherever Dr. Mintz was connected unit for much than 60 years.

Dr. Mintz was an embryologist whose enactment spanned a fig of disciplines, and her pioneering contributions person proved indispensable successful helping researchers unravel immoderate of the complexities of however crab operates.

“She made foundational discoveries and revolutionized galore tools and techniques of molecular biology that paved the mode for tremendous advancement successful our knowing of cancer,” Margaret Foti, main enforcement of the American Association for Cancer Research, said successful a statement.

Dr. Mintz’s experiments drew attraction as aboriginal arsenic 1964, soon aft she joined the Institute for Cancer Research, present portion of Fox Chase.

Among her aboriginal notable achievements was her enactment successful 1968 successful which she bred “multi-mice,” that is, mice with 2 fathers and 2 mothers. She took cells from a brace of achromatic mice and cells from a brace of acheronian mice and implanted them successful a surrogate parent mouse. The offspring came retired striped — a wide look of familial characteristics that would alteration scientists to survey genes successful a mode that had not been imaginable before.

In different important experiment, she introduced overseas DNA into rodent embryos. This “transgenic” exertion enabled scientists to make genetically tailored mice, an invaluable instrumentality that helped alteration biomedical research.

“That elemental experimentation was the granddaddy of each rodent crab exemplary that we have,” Dr. Jonathan Chernoff, manager of the Fox Chase Cancer Center, said successful an interview.

Perhaps her astir far-reaching uncovering was her demonstration successful 1968 that definite deadly crab cells could beryllium inserted into rodent embryos and, to everyone’s astonishment, a mean rodent would develop. It was not that the neighboring cells killed the crab cells; rather, they someway instructed the crab cells to revert to a benign authorities and past contributed to making a mean mouse.

“This was revolutionary,” Dr. Chernoff said. “The implications were that tumors were not ever autonomous, that they were successful changeless dialog with the cells astir them, and they responded to their environment,” which could either marque the crab worse oregon support it successful check. This suggested that the neighboring insubstantial could assistance tame tumor cells much mildly than radiation oregon chemotherapy. Drugs designed to mimic these normalizing effects are present portion of galore crab therapy regimens.

An elected subordinate of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Mintz won galore prestigious prizes and awards. They included the National Medal of Honor for Basic Research by the American Cancer Society, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association for Cancer Research, and the archetypal March of Dimes Prize successful developmental biology, which she shared with Ralph L. Brinster, successful 1996.

Many of her colleagues thought that her enactment deserved a Nobel Prize, and she was doubly nominated. John R. Durant, the erstwhile president of Fox Chase, told The Philadelphia Inquirer successful 1986 that she astir apt would person won “if she had been a amended politician.”

Dr. Mintz was notorious for having a demanding property and for mounting exacting standards that fewer others could meet.

At 1 constituent she was reasoning astir contributing to an endowed seat successful her sanction that would beryllium reserved for a pistillate scientist, she told Dr. Chernoff, but past added that she couldn’t deliberation of anyone who would qualify.

“She was a throwback to an earlier benignant of autarkic solo artist,” Dr. Chernoff said. “She did everything herself, built her ain equipment, injected microscopic rodent eggs herself, and she personally looked aft each her mice, which was astir apt for the amended due to the fact that she would announcement cardinal details that mightiness different person escaped detection.”

On the uncommon juncture erstwhile she would instrumentality connected assistants oregon postdoctoral fellows, she would amusement them a representation of the neighborhood, gully a one-mile-wide ellipse with her laboratory successful the halfway and instruct them to unrecorded wrong the circle; they had to beryllium readily available.

Despite a estimation for prickliness, she could besides beryllium generous. When a workfellow brought his 7-year-old girl to enactment 1 day, Dr. Mintz took the miss speech and talked to her for 2 hours astir however she became a scientist, which was astir by accident.


Credit...Tommy Leonardi

Beatrice Mintz was calved connected Jan. 24, 1921, successful the Bronx, the youngest of 4 children. Her parents, Samuel and Janie (Stein) Mintz, had migrated archetypal to London and past to New York from the tiny municipality of Mikulintsy, which was portion of Austrian Galicia and is present portion of Ukraine. In New York, her begetter worked for a clip successful the garment manufacture arsenic a presser, ironing clothes.

Beatrice, known arsenic Bea, skipped immoderate grades successful schoolhouse and went to Hunter College, wherever she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa successful her inferior year. She was readying to survey creation past but past took a biology course, liked her teacher and became truthful intrigued with the taxable that she majored successful it. She graduated magna cum laude successful 1941. She studied for a twelvemonth astatine New York University, past did her postgraduate enactment astatine the University of Iowa, wherever she earned her master’s grade successful 1944 and a doctorate successful 1946.

Her archetypal occupation was arsenic an teacher successful the section of biologic sciences astatine the University of Chicago from 1946 to 1960. During that time, she studied successful France connected a Fulbright fellowship. But she preferred doing basal probe to teaching and successful 1960 transferred to Fox Chase, wherever she remained connected the module until her death. She besides served arsenic an adjunct prof astatine the University of Pennsylvania.

She had nary contiguous survivors. Mr. Spallone, her executor, said successful an interrogation that she near her property to probe organizations.

Dr. Mintz remained an creation enthusiast. While successful France, she bought respective signed Picasso prints and hung them successful her homes (she had 2 apartments, 1 adjacent to her lab). She besides wrote poetry, mostly astir mice, but felt the poems were not bully capable for nationalist consumption, truthful she kept them successful a table drawer.

She had 1 of her archetypal “multi-mice” stuffed by a taxidermist, arsenic a benignant of trophy. But the taxidermist had enactment it successful a stalking airs that she felt was unnatural. It besides went into a table drawer.

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