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Breast Cancer Pioneer Dies

Elwood Jensen, whose research inspired new treatments for breast cancer, has passed away at age 92.

Jan 3, 2013
Jef Akst

WIKIMEDIA, NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTEElwood Jensen, a widely renowned breast cancer researcher, died last month (December 16) due to complications of pneumonia, his son, Thomas Jensen, told The New York Times. His work, recognized by a 2004 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, led to the development of live-saving breast cancer treatments. He was 92 years old.

Jensen started out at the University of Chicago in 1947 studying steroid hormones, such as estrogen. He used radioactive tracers to identify the estrogen’s intracellular receptors that mediated the hormone’s cellular effects. He then looked for such estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells, and found that they were missing in some cancers. This information—for which Jensen and University of Chicago colleague Geoffrey Greene developed a test now in clinical use—became critical for determining the appropriate treatment of the disease: breast cancers that have estrogen receptors can be treated with estrogen receptor antagonists, such as Tamoxifen, while such therapies will often fail to kill tumors that lack such receptors.

Jensen’s research also contributed to new treatments for prostate and other cancers that targeted steroid hormone behavior.

In 2002, Jensen moved to the University of Cincinnati, where he continued to work until last year. He is survived by his second wife—who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and successfully treated with an estrogen synthesis inhibitor—as well as a sister and two children.

(Hat tip to GenomeWeb)

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