Researcher: Estrogen May Actually Prevent Breast Cancer Recurrence
October 20, 2009 –Oncologist V. Craig Jordan believes a short course of estrogen, thought to cause breast cancer in some patients, can actually block recurrence of the disease.
Jordan, the scientific director and vice chair of the oncology department at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, believes that giving estrogen to women who are resistant to anti-estrogenic therapies may allow the return of estrogenic activity – and keep cancer at bay.
Such a contrary view may be surprising to some, but not to Jordan.
“By looking back, you can see the way forward,” says Jordan, who wants to test his theory in clinical trials. “That is how we learn from previous generations.”
Jordan’s theory stems from Alexander Haddow’s 1940s research, which showed that synthetic estrogens could shrink tumors in animals. Haddow found that one-third of postmenopausal women with metastatic breast cancer responded well to high doses of estrogen and that some patients saw an extraordinary regression of their cancers.
But by the 1970s, Haddow still did not know how the tumors disappeared. Now, Jordan and his colleagues believe they may have solved that mystery.
Estrogen: The Problem and the Solution
When Jordan began his research in the early 1970s, many researchers knew estrogen played a role in breast cancer. But few thought anti-estrogen agents could be developed to fight the disease.
Jordan was at the forefront of developing tamoxifen and raloxifene, two of the first antiestrogenic therapies or selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs). While developing these drugs, Jordan also discovered what would lead to his present-day research – that treating SERM-resistant cancer with low-dose estrogen could kill tumor cells.
Finding a Cure
Jordan has received many honors, including the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor for Basic Research, the Order of the British Empire and membership in the National Academy of Sciences.
While the scientist appreciates these accolades, he says finding a cure will be the true measure of his success.
“I want to be able to say, definitely, that I have solved Dr. Haddow’s problem,” he says, “and that of many women with breast cancer or at risk of developing it.”