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BPS Celebrates Max Planck-Humboldt Medal Awardee Kandice Tanner

BPS Celebrates Max Planck-Humboldt Medal Awardee Kandice Tanner

ROCKVILLE, MD – The Biophysical Society is honored to celebrate Kandice Tanner, a physicist and Senior Investigator at the Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Tanner is being recognized for her pioneering work on the biophysics of the metastatic spread of cancer.

Using 3D organoid models of cancer progression, Tanner discovered a novel type of cell migration and cell generated forces associated with the formation of microtissues and tumors. This discovery demonstrated that physical forces are important in the establishment of tissues and that tumors arise when the magnitude and coherence of these forces are altered. Building on these findings, she has transformed tools traditionally used for in vitro single-molecule biophysics such as optical tweezers to test the importance of the role of physical forces in cancer progression directly in a living animal. After establishing that the patterns of cancer spreading in humans can be recapitulated in zebrafish. She discovered that biophysical properties of the blood vessels that these cancer cells encountered during spread directly influenced the cells’ ability to show preferential colonization in the brain vs. the bone marrow niche in the zebrafish. This question is important for the use of personalized medicine because some treatments may be effective in one organ such as the liver but less so in another organ such as the lung or brain. These discoveries in turn amplify use of this novel animal model to address organ specific drug responses. Moreover, it also supported the concept that therapeutics influencing the biophysical properties of cells and tissues could be potent weapons in the arsenal of eradication and treatment of malignancies.

“Kandice is a long-standing member of the Society who has always generously shared her time and expertise. We are honored to celebrate this outstanding career achievement,” said BPS President Taekjip Ha of Harvard Medical School. “We can’t wait to see what insights and discoveries are next on the horizon for her.”

The Max Planck Society and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation present the Max Planck-Humboldt Research Award and the Max-Plack-Humboldt Medal for researchers whose work is characterized by outstanding potential for the future. The prize is intended to attract particularly innovative scientists working abroad to spend a fixed period of time at a German higher education institution or research facility. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) provides the funding for the award. The focus of the award alternates each year between natural and engineering sciences, life sciences, humanities and social sciences.


The Biophysical Society, founded in 1958, is a professional, scientific society established to lead an innovative global community working at the interface of the physical and life sciences, across all levels of complexity, and to foster the dissemination of that knowledge. The Society promotes growth in this expanding field through its Annual Meeting, publications, and outreach activities. Its 7,500 members are located throughout the world, where they teach and conduct research in colleges, universities, laboratories, government agencies, and industry.

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