Rajani Avinash Bhisey obtained her BSc degree from the University of Bombay and joined Indian Cancer Research Centre (ICRC), Mumbai as a Research Fellow to work for MSc by research. She worked at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, as a Research Assistant and later with Dr Jerome J Freed at the Institute for Cancer Research, Philadelphia, on ultra-structural aspects of cell surface of drug resistant haploid frog cells. She worked on skin carcinogenesis using electron microscope as the main tool, which led to her PhD degree from the University of Bombay. After retiring from CRI as Head Carcinogenesis Division, Dr Bhisey joined University of Pune as an Adjunct Professor.
Academic and Research Achievements: Dr Bhisey initiated biochemical studies on experimental mouse skin carcinogenesis, characterized and developed a hairless mouse model bred and developed, at ICRC, as a highly sensitive model to tumor initiating and tumor promoting action of environmental agents. This model system, demonstrated carcinogenic action of pan masala, a chewing product without tobacco in a variety of organs. She established a genetic toxicology laboratory at Cancer Research Institute (CRI) to test mutagenic potential of putative mutagens, conduct toxicology investigations and monitor genetic hazards of environmental agents. Her laboratory monitored genetic damage in bidi rollers and tobacco processors who are chronically exposed to high levels of tobacco dust. These studies revealed that internal tissues of tobacco-exposed individuals are in contact with tobacco mutagens and that mutagenic action of tobacco and production of oxidative stress contribute to its carcinogenic action. Investigations by her group identified the tobacco processors as a high-risk group for cancer. Also examined are the probable link between susceptibility to oral cancer and polymorphism in genes responsible for detoxification of tobacco mutagens and repair of damaged DNA. Her studies led to the identification of polymorphic alleles that confer high oral cancer risk to tobacco users. Dr Bhisey has published more than 70 papers in international journals and guided 12 PhD students.
Other Contributions: Bhisey introduced courses in Cancer Biology and Genetic Toxicology for MSc students and helped train several students and scientists in techniques in carcinogenesis and mutagenesis. She is a Member of Monograph Program Panel, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France.
Awards and Honours: Dr Bhisey was awarded the UICC Young Scientist Fellowship and is a recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award by the Association of Zoologists of India 2007. She is a Fellow of Maharashtra Academy of Sciences and Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore.