Connie Eaves

Connie Jean Eaves

Connie Eaves
1944 - 2024
Distinguished Scientist, Terry Fox Laboratory, BC Cancer; Professor, Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC
Share this profile
For her pioneering work and leadership in the study of hematopoietic, mammary and cancer stem cells and her dedicated advocacy for early- career investigators and women in science

The Work:

Dr. Eaves’ research has focused on leukemia and breast cancer and the normal tissues in which these diseases originate. Eaves together with her husband, Allen Eaves, and a dedicated group of talented trainees developed methodologies to isolate putative stem cells from living mouse and human tissues, and detect them based on their ability to grow as single cells in specialized tissue cultures or in transplanted mice. This made it possible to quantify blood and mammary gland stem cells in different situations, and discover a hidden population of suppressed normal blood stem cells in patients with leukemia, which has stimulated a search for new therapies. Eaves also showed that leukemic stem cells are actually not dividing most of the time. Her studies of breast cells revealed that similar principles apply to understanding the normal growth of this tissue. More recently, she has developed new methods for creating human leukemia and breast cancer experimentally.

Throughout her distinguished career, Dr. Eaves has demonstrated outstanding national and international leadership. She co-founded the Terry Fox Laboratory at the British Columbia Cancer Agency, was a leader in the Canadian Stem Cell Network and held multiple senior roles in the National Cancer Institute of Canada, where she spearheaded the establishment of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance to create the first national source of breast cancer research funding in Canada.

In addition to the national and international accolades received throughout her career, Dr. Eaves is recognized for her exceptional commitment to the training of more than 100 scientists from around the world, including many now in senior leadership positions. Dr. Eaves is also a passionate advocate for the advancement of women in science, a commitment that led to her recognition as a Status of Women Canada Pioneer.

The Impact:

Dr. Eaves has shown great initiative and immense talent across her five-decade career. Her dedication to multidisciplinary research and to providing the best training possible for aspiring researchers has strengthened Canadian science and garnered international recognition.

Eaves’ scientific findings have been paradigm-shifting, driving the field of stem cell research forward. Her provision of reproducible and rigorously quantitative methods for analysing the rare cells responsible for maintaining normal blood and mammary tissues has enabled many new lines of research. Eaves continues to apply cutting-edge technology and elegant experimental design to the most pertinent problems in stem cell biology and cancer research, constantly contributing to the ongoing pursuit of cures.