Angela Brodie, Ph.D. from the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center will receive the 2010 Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine. The award, administered by the Rosenstiel Center at Brandeis, consists of a $15,000 cash prize and a medallion. Dr. Brodie will deliver the award lecture, Aromatase Inhibitors and Breast Cancer: Concept to Clinic, on October 12, 2010 at 4:00 pm in Gerstenzang 121.
Dr. Brodie pioneered the development of aromatase inhibitors, a new class of drugs widely used today to treat breast cancer. Aromatase is the key enzyme in estrogen biosynthesis. Aromatase inhibitors reduce the level of estrogen produced by the body that fuels the growth of breast cancer cells. Although tamoxifen is effective in treating breast cancer, the antiestrogen is a partial agonist as well as an antagonist and may not be optimally effective against breast cancer. By using a different approach, Dr. Brodie reasoned that compounds that inhibit the production of estrogen without having significant estrogenic activity themselves might be more effective in treating breast cancer.
Dr. Brodie began developing aromatase inhibitors with her husband Harry Brodie in the early 1970s. She showed that the most potent inhibitor identified, 4-hydroxyandrostenedione (4-OHA) was effective in suppressing estrogen levels and causing regression of mammary tumors in animal models. Subsequently, she collaborated with the Royal Marsden Hospital in London to evaluate 4-OHA in breast cancer patients. The researchers found that the aromatase inhibitor not only suppressed serum estrogen concentrations, but also reduced tumors in postmenopausal patients with advanced breast cancer who had relapsed from tamoxifen or other treatments. This first selective aromatase inhibitor came into worldwide use in the early 1990s from Novartis. Dr. Brodie’s pioneering studies paved the way for three other FDA approved aromatase inhibitors.
Dr. Brodie is currently investigating new strategies for treating hormone resistant breast cancer based on understanding the molecular mechanisms involved. Dr. Brodie is also investigating androgen synthesis inhibitors to treat prostate cancer. A novel compound developed by her group has recently started clinical trials.