31 Days of Impact – Day 28, Dr. Craig Jordan
The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.
V. CRAIG JORDAN, OBE, PhD, DSc, FMedSci, WASHINGTON D.C. – Scientific Director, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Vice Chairman, Department of Oncology, Georgetown University Medical School Professor of Oncology and Pharmacology, Georgetown University Medical School; Visiting Professor of Molecular Medicine, University of Leeds, England; Komen Scholar
“Everything that I’ve done in ‘high risk’ has saved hundreds of thousands of women’s lives.”
My relationship with Susan G. Komen for the Cure began more than 20 years ago with a research grant in 1990 – but my interest in cancer research started long before. My mother supported my passion in becoming a cancer research scientist at a very young age, allowing me to convert my bedroom into a chemistry laboratory. A lifelong pursuit of finding out how chemistry could help people would soon follow. As a young man studying pharmacology at the University of Leeds, I knew I wanted to develop drugs to be able to treat cancer. Everybody thought it was just a crazy idea!
It turns out that my ideas weren’t crazy, though many of them were considered “high risk” at the time. Ultimately, everything I’ve done in high risk has saved hundreds of thousands of women’s lives. This includes transforming a failed contraceptive drug into the first effective targeted therapy for hormone sensitive breast cancer. Tamoxifen has become the gold standard for breast cancer treatment for more than 25 years now. Originally, it was discarded as an idea, as quite ridiculous, but we worked out the right way of using it. There are at least 20 generic versions of tamoxifen in use worldwide, so it’s difficult to figure out how many women are being helped by the drug, but it’s clear that millions of women have benefitted from tamoxifen with longer, healthier lives following a diagnosis of breast cancer.
In addition to treating women already diagnosed with breast cancer, tamoxifen actually became the first chemo prevention drug. It was proven to reduce the risk of breast cancer incidence by approximately 50% in women at high risk for developing the disease.
I’ve been fortunate to develop additional treatments that help women with breast cancer, which caught the eye of Susan G. Komen, who recognized the importance that funding plays with the advancement of breast cancer research. I was the inaugural recipient of Komen’s most prestigious award – the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction. I also serve on the Komen Scholars, a highly selective group of world leaders in breast cancer research whose work in the lab is supported by Komen and who are instrumental in reviewing grant applications, helping to choose the most important and impactful projects for funding.
Being a part of the Komen Scholars has also allowed me to receive grants that support my ongoing research in tumor resistance to tamoxifen. While studying the behavior of estrogen, my team found that in some instances, estrogen actually stopped cancer, instead of causing it. Now I’m studying all of the pathways of estrogen, why it sometimes causes cancer growth and sometimes causes death of cancerous cells. I’m confident that if we can discover the death pathway, then we can use that as a new target for novel therapies in breast cancer and maybe cancers in general.
Millions of women around the world could benefit from this research, and to think that my mother allowing me to turn my bedroom into a chemistry lab started it all.
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About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.