Degree of honorary doctor in medicine to Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale

The Rector at the The University of Copenhagen has approved a recommendation from the Faculty of Health Sciences that the degree of honorary doctor in medicine (doctor medicinae honoris causa) is conferred on Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale.

The conferring of the honorary degree took place at the commemoration day of the university on Thursday, November 20th 2008.


From the web pages of the University of Copenhagen:

In English:
Faculty of Health Sciences
Symposium to celebrate honorary doctors and alumni 2008

In Danish:
Det Sundhedsvidenskabelige Fakultet
Æresdoktorer 2008
Program (PDF format)

From the UiO web pages (University of Oslo):
Honorary doctor in medicine to Professor Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale, Thursday, November 20th 2008


Web page of Anne-Lise Børresen-Dahle's group: Integrated Genomics of Breast Cancer

Nomination of Professor Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale as Honorary Doctor at the University of Copenhagen

Dr. Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale was born July 3, 1946, in Molde, Norway. She graduated in 1970 from the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the Techni-cal University of Norway. Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale has later obtained her Dr. Scient. degree in Medical Biochemical Genetics at the University of Oslo. Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale has earned an international reputation for her pioneering research on patients with breast cancer and ovarian cancer. She has contributed most notably by the molecular portraying of breast can-cer into five subtypes and gene expression profiles contributing to elevated cancer risk, radiation sensitivity, tumor aggressiveness and therapy resis-tance. She has received a number of national and international awards, holds the position of Head of the Department of Genetics at the Insitute for Cancer Research at Rikshospitalet - Radiumhospitalet Health Trust and is Professor of Molecular Tumor Biology at the University of Oslo. Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale has authored more than 250 papers in internationally peer reviewed journals, 20 book chapters/reviews and 32 articles in Nordic journal and books. She has been visiting scientist at some of the world’s most esteemed laboratories including Rockefeller University, EMBL, Harvard Medical School and MIT. Most recently she has been Visiting Professor at David Botstein’s laboratory at Department of Genetics at Stanford University.

The visits at Stanford led in 2000 to the first paper published in Nature in a series of papers applying the micro array technology for profiling of cancer subtypes. So far the paper has been cited 1.884 times. The phenotypic varia-tion of breast tumours was addressed by DNA microarrays, and a hierarchi-cal clustering method was used to group genes on the basis of similarity in the pattern with which their expression varied over all samples. A set of 1.753 genes was selected for a cluster gene diagram. The dendrogram branched into five subtypes with relation to the cell lineages found in the normal breast and overexpression of oncogenes. This seminal paper which was the first of its kind on a large group of human solid tumors promised well for the future development of a completely new paradigm of individu-alized therapy in breast cancer. A promise that was later fulfilled.

In a follow-up paper in 2001 with Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale as senior author in PNAS the concept of breast cancer subtypes was further substantiated. So far this paper has been cited 1.272 times. In this paper the vision of microar-rays as predictors of individual disease outcomes was born out. In particular the basal subtype turned out to have a poor prognosis. This new perception of breast cancer as possibly comprising multiple diseases fuelled the idea of different cells of origin. Almost concomitantly a different field of breast cancer research hypothesised a cell of origin in stem or progenitor cells, and the work by Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale represented an invaluable source of inspiration in that respect.

In the next 2002 PNAS paper (cited 373 times) Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale and co-workers expanded further on the implications of the newly described breast cancer subtypes. A first link between alterations in specific DNA copy numbers and global deregulation of gene expression was established. This opened for a reappraisal of breast cancer as being the result of aberrant pathways (pathway pathology) where amplifications and other genetic events drive the evolution of the entire tumor phenotype.

The final paper in this land-mark series of paper also came out in PNAS and has been cited 642 times. In this paper evidence points to the fact that inher-ited breast cancer due to germ-line mutations is almost always of the basal-like subtype. This observation was in good agreement with the interpretation of this subtype as having its origin in somatic stem cells.

Collectively, the achievements of Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale are seminal and pioneering for the understanding of human breast cancer evolution. Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale is an extraordinarily accomplished geneticist whose dis-coveries has had an enormous impact on our view of the complexity breast cancer both in terms of appearance, biological behaviour, clinical outcome, and treatment response. Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale is a role model when it comes to the establishment of significant international networks. She also has collaborated with domestic colleagues at the Danish Cancer Society and at the Kennedy Institute. Currently, she is engaged in a collaborative effort with scientists at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Copen-hagen trying to find molecular profiles specific to breast cancer stem cells. Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale has in addition to her scientific merits made an outstanding personal contribution to the academia in general. She has served as a mentor for numerous young scientists and also a dedicated teacher. Since she is so highly recognised by her peers in general she is a perfect candidate for title of Honorary Doctor at the University of Copenhagen 2008.