Fernand Labrie

Medicine

Endocrinologist who won the 2007 King Faisal Prize for developing a steroid hormone therapy for prostate cancer.


Fernand Labrie is a true medical hero. His work into endocrinology, why and how hormones affect the body, has led to several lifesaving procedures.
From an early interest in the natural sciences as a high school student, Labrie went on to get a M.D. from the University of Laval in 1962, and a Ph.D. in endocrinology from Laval in 1966. From his home in Quebece, he ventured to England to study with Frederick Sanger, two-time Nobel prize in medicine winner, at his Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the University of Cambridge.
In 1969 after a few years of postdoctoral training with Sanger, Labrie returned to “la belle province” and the University of Laval to found the Laboratory of Molecular Endocrinology.
It was in Quebec that Labrie made several of his breakthroughs. He found that by adding a hormone called GNrH to patients with prostate cancer it completely stopped hormones from the testes. This hormonal castration effectively ended the need for surgical castration.
With another discovery that blocked male hormones from being released by the adrenal glands, Labrie was able to prolong the lifespan of men with advanced stages of prostate cancer and completely prevent the cancer from spreading in early diagnosed cases.
Solving prostate cancer was a matter of hormones, so Labrie decided to start work on the opposite gender’s troublesome cancer: breast cancer.
Labrie found that hormone replacement therapy (adding estrogen to menopausal women) often was linked with uterine or breast cancer. Therefore, Labrie’s lab has developed drugs to prevent estrogens from binding in the breast or uterus.
By Graeme Stemp-Morlock

The Science