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Elwood V. Jensen, PhD, known for demystifying the basic and clinical physiology of all steroid hormones, died from pneumonia on Dec. 16 in Cincinnati at age 92. He was the Charles B. Huggins Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Chicago.

ELWOOD V. JENSEN, PH... - Click to enlarge in new windowELWOOD V. JENSEN, PHD (1920-2012)

"Jensen's revolutionary discovery of estrogen receptors is beyond doubt one of the major achievements in biochemical endocrinology of our time," Gene DeSombre, PhD, Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago, who worked with Jensen as a post-doctoral fellow and then as a colleague, said in a news release. "His work is hallmarked by great technical ingenuity and conceptual novelty."


Jensen proved that hormones bind to a receptor protein within the cell, which travels to the cell nucleus and regulates gene expression, which led to the identification of medications, rather than surgical procedures, to shield estrogen-dependent tumors from circulating hormones. Along with V. Craig Jordan, OBE, PhD, DSc, he found that women with cancers that contain estrogen receptors could be treated with tamoxifen, which was approved for breast cancer treatment in 1977 and for breast cancer risk reduction in 1990. Among his other noteworthy research:


* In 1958 his findings that only tissues that respond to estrogens were able to concentrate injected estradiol from the blood led to the identification of the estrogen receptor cells of the uterus-the first receptor found for any steroid hormone;


* In 1968 he devised a reliable test for the presence of estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells; and


* In 1980 he and a University of Chicago colleague developed monoclonal antibodies directed against the human estrogen receptor that enabled them to quickly and accurately detect and count estrogen receptors in breast and other tumors, which became a standard part of breast cancer care by the mid-1980s.



Jensen joined the University of Chicago in 1947 as Assistant Professor of Surgery, and worked closely with Nobel laureate Charles Huggins, MD. Jensen became an original member of the Ben May Laboratory for Cancer Research in 1951, and became Director after Huggins stepped down.


Jensen retired in 1990, but continued to do research at the National Institutes of Health, Cornell Medical College, the University of Hamburg, and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. He joined the University of Cincinnati as the George J. and Elizabeth Wile Chair in Cancer Research in 2002, where he continued his research until late last year.


He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1974 and received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award in 2004.