For every milestone in breast cancer research, there are
countless men and women to thank. Through their creativity and dogged
determination, women have hope in preventing, living with, even curing breast
Here are just a few of these courageous researchers, who bucked
traditional thinking and showed proof of their theories:
WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part
of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called “Me & the
Girls,” explores the personal stories of these women after they were diagnosed
with breast cancer.
Breast cancer survivor Zunilda Guzman, 39, lives in the Miami area. Guzman
noticed a lump on her chest in April 2008 and thought it might be related to
her breast implants. She asked her gynecologist to schedule a mammogram, and
1902 -- The radical mastectomy was first performed and was the
only treatment for breast cancer for more than 80 years. It involved removing a
large portion of the chest, including the entire breast, lymph nodes, and chest
1955 -- Charles Huggins, PhD, pioneered breast cancer research
showing that sex hormones were involved. He received the Nobel Prize in
1955 -- Emil J. Freireich, MD, and colleagues designed the
first scientific clinical trial for combination cancer chemotherapy.
1966 -- Elwood Jensen, MD, and Eugene Sombre, PhD, described
proteins that bind to sex hormones and help carry out their function.
1966 -- Henry Lynch, MD, first identified a hereditary
1970s -- A handful of forward-thinking surgeons began believing
that simple mastectomy -- removal of only the breast itself -- was just as
effective as a radical mastectomy.
Surgeons also began studying lumpectomy followed by radiation
therapy as an option to radical mastectomy.
Among those visionary breast cancer researchers: Bernard
Fisher, MD, director of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel
Project, and Umberto Veronesi, MD, researcher with the European Institute of
Oncology in Milan, Italy. Both launched long-term studies of these
1970s -- Brian McMahon, MD, showed that breast cancer was
related to length of a woman's lifetime exposure to reproductive hormones.
1970s -- Joseph Bertino, MD, and Robert Schimke, MD, worked out
mechanisms of drug resistance.
1970s -- Peter Vogt, MD, identified the first cancer-causing
gene (oncogene) in a chicken tumor virus.
1974 -- V. Craig Jordan, PhD, showed that the drug tamoxifen
could prevent breast cancer in rats by binding to the estrogen receptor. Four
years later, tamoxifen was approved by the FDA for treating estrogen-sensitive
1976 -- J. Michael Bishop, MD, and Harold Varmus, MD,
discovered oncogenes in normal DNA, suggesting that a normal gene already
present in the cell has the potential of becoming an oncogene. They were
awarded a Nobel Prize in 1989.
1980 -- E. Donnall Thomas, MD, pioneered the technique of bone
marrow transplantation to treat cancer. He received the Nobel Prize in
1988 -- Dennis Salmon, MD, discovered that too much of the
cancer gene that produces the her-2/neu receptor is a feature of some 30% of
the most aggressive breast cancers.
1990 -- Mary-Claire King, MD, localized the BRCA1 gene for
inherited susceptibility to breast cancer to a specific site on chromosome
1994 -- Brian Henderson, MD, showed that exercise can reduce
risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women.