The 2006 Henry Gray Award


The Henry Gray Award is the most prestigious award given by the American Association of Anatomists (AAA). This award is presented annually to an AAA member in recognition of his or her unique and meritorious contributions to, and achievements in, the anatomical sciences. The Henry Gray laureate for 2006 is Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix, who is currently president and scientific director of Children's Memorial Research Center at Northwestern University. 1

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Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix

Dr. Hendrix received her BS in 1974 from Shepard College in West Virginia. She went on to complete her PhD in 1977 in anatomy and cell biology at George Washington University. Dr. Hendrix was a postdoctoral fellow in cell and developmental biology at Harvard from 1977 to 1980. She began her illustrious career in the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy at University of Arizona in 1980, where she was an assistant professor. She was promoted to associate professor in 1986 in the same department and became professor of cell biology and anatomy in 1992. During her time in Arizona, she served as associate head of the department (1991–1993), was a member of the University of Arizona Comprehensive Cancer Center, a member of the University of Arizona Heart Center, and served as a member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. She was also an adjunct professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of California in San Francisco (1981–1985). From 1994 to 1996, Dr. Hendrix served as director of the Pediatric Research Institute of Cardinal Glennon Child Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. During 1995 to 1996, she held an IMMUNO-US–endowed professorship in pediatric research.

In 1996, Dr. Hendrix moved to the University of Iowa to head the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology in the Carver College of Medicine. While at Iowa, Dr. Hendrix was also associate director of basic research at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Care Center, deputy director at the Holden Center, held the Kate Daum Endowed Research Professorship, and was a member of the graduate faculty in the molecular biology program. In 2004, Dr. Hendrix became president and scientific director of the Children's Memorial Research Center at Northwestern University in Chicago, a position she currently holds.

Dr. Hendrix's research efforts have focused on elucidating how regulatory molecules and phenotypes control genes and govern cell-to-cell and cell-to-matrix interactions, epithelial/mesenchymal transitions, and cell motility. Her work has considered these questions in several types of neoplastic tumors. She has addressed the plasticity of human metastatic melanoma cells under various environmental conditions, with particular emphasis on the biological significance of their vascular phenotype. The overarching hypothesis guiding her studies is that metastatic melanoma cells express a plastic dedifferentiated phenotype capable of adapting to various microenvironments. Dr. Hendrix is dedicated to elucidating the molecular underpinnings and translational relevance of the dedifferentiated phenotype of highly aggressive tumor cells in melanoma and breast cancer, which began with her initial observation of the coexpression of vimentin (mesenchymal marker) and keratin (epithelial marker) intermediate filaments by the highly aggressive, but not poorly aggressive, tumor cells. Her seminal contributions demonstrated a direct experimental relationship between the overexpression of both mesenchymal and epithelial intermediate filaments in highly aggressive melanoma and breast cancer cells and their augmented migratory, invasive, and tumorigenic ability.

Using a “team science” approach with basic, clinical, and bioengineering scientists, Dr. Hendrix reported that patients whose tumors coexpressed vimentin and keratins had a poor clinical outcome in cutaneous melanoma, uveal melanoma, and breast carcinoma. Dr. Hendrix is a scientist who has openly embraced a multidisciplinary approach to addressing research problems, which has allowed her to validate her basic cellular and molecular observations in animal models and human clinical samples. There is no question but that Dr. Hendrix's research has extremely important implications for the clinical treatment of various types of cancer.

The nearly 170 research articles published by Dr. Hendrix can be found in well-known and highly regarded journals. These include Developmental Biology, Journal of Pathology, Early Human Development, Cancer Research, Journal of Experimental Pathology, Cancer Letters, American Journal of Anatomy, Anatomical Record, Pigment Cell Research, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Pathology Oncology Research, Journal of Cell Physiology, American Journal of Pathology, and Neoplasia. Dr. Hendrix has also published 21 books or book chapters and is the author of hundreds of abstracts resulting from presentations at professional meetings around the world.

Grants from several federal agencies have supported Dr. Hendrix's research program for many years. These include the National Institute of Heart, Lung and Blood, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Department of Defense (DOD), and she is currently the holder of a Merit Award from the NIH/NCI. Her research is well supported, indicating that it has been touching on issues of primary importance in areas of cancer and cancer research.

In addition to her significant and outstanding research reputation and accomplishments, Dr. Hendrix's scientific standing is also illustrated by several additional points. She has served as distinguished invited lecturer at numerous venues in the United States and around the world, including invited invitations to speak in Japan and Australia. Dr. Hendrix has also served as organizer or coorganizer for national and international meetings and workshops. Importantly, she has been invited to testify before Congress specifically on appropriations for research funding on the National Science Foundation (NSF), NIH, and DOD budgets. As one would expect, Dr. Hendrix has been involved in grant review service over the last 20 years. She has served as a grant reviewer for the NSF, NIH/NCI (for breast and prostate reviews), and has served as a reviewer for the Dutch Cancer Society, Israel Science Foundation, and the Italian Cancer Society. Through this involvement, Dr. Hendrix has had a profound influence not only on funding research in this important area, but on this issue around the world.

To help serve the scientific community further, Dr. Hendrix is also on the editorial boards of 13 well-recognized peer-reviewed journals. These include Anatomical Record, Cancer Letters, American Journal of Pathology, International Journal of Oncology, Pathology Oncology Research, and Lymphatic Research. In addition to this heavy editorial responsibility, Dr. Hendrix has found the opportunity to serve as an external referee for over 20 journals over the years, such as Cell, Pigment Cell Research, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, American Journal of Anatomy, Cancer and Nutrition, Journal of Cell Biology, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Numerous honors and awards have been bestowed on Dr. Hendrix over the years. These include a United States Public Heath Service Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Harvard University, a Proctor and Gamble Cancer Research Lectureship Award, an honorary doctoral of science degree, the Coffey Lectureship Award, the Eminent USA Scientist of the Year Award from the International Research Promotion Council, a Frank Lowe Research Lectureship, and the recipient of a Merit Award from the NCI.

In sprite of her tremendous involvement in research and in administration, Dr. Hendrix has also been deeply involved in teaching graduate students and mentoring postdoctoral fellows and research faculty. She has taught undergraduate, medical, and graduate students primarily in the areas of cell and molecular biology. She has served as a major advisor for 22 PhD students over the years, for 23 postdoctoral fellows and research faculty, and she has mentored 9 scientists in her laboratory. Dr. Hendrix has also been involved in committee work at the institutions where she has served. She has served on and/or chaired dozens of committees during her career. These are far too numerous to list, but examples of the wide range of contributions would include her service on Admissions Committees, Graduate Committees, LCME Subcommittees, Small Grant Review Committee, and the Dean Research Council Committee. Her other professional and scientific activities have involved work for many professional organizations, institutions, and federal agencies. She has served on dozens of panels, including service as a member of the executive committee for the AAA, a National Search Committee for Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Pathology, and the nominating committee for the Pigment Cell Society. She served as vice president and program secretary for the AAA, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) from 2000 to 2001, and as a member of the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors. Dr. Hendrix clearly has a strong and deep involvement in the advancement of science in the United States and within the institutions to which she has belonged.

Dr. Mary Hendrix has made many important contributions to the understanding of the cell and molecular biology of cancer and related diseases. Her insights have provided important new discoveries and new avenues of research that may lead to disease cures in the future. She has dedicated energy to the association and has tirelessly worked toward its goals. The AAA recognizes Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix as a most worthy recipient of the Henry Gray Award for 2006.