Huggins Symposium

Each spring, faculty and staff gather for the Charles B. Huggins Research Symposium, an event celebrating the academic accomplishments of the Department – past, present and future.  The event features a poster competition, oral presentations and a distinguished keynote speaker.

"Discovery is our business" was Dr. Charles B. Huggins motto and anthem.

Dr. Huggins was the founder and first Director of the Ben May Cancer Laboratory for Cancer Research, in 1951. It was at this time that he demonstrated that breast cancer, like prostate cancer, was dependent on specific hormones. By removing the sources of those hormones, the ovaries and the adrenal glands, which Dr. Huggins showed in 1945 were the source of both male and female hormones, a substantial regression in 30-40% of women with advanced breast cancer was observed.

In 1961, Dr. Huggins developed an experimental mode of human breast cancer in rats. He injected a small dose of aromatic polycyclic hydrocarbons to produce malignant mammary tumors, many of which were hormone dependent. The hormone dependent tumors grew and shrank in response to changes in hormonal balance of the host. The method was known as the "Huggins tumor.” In 1966, Huggins was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for his research showing the relationship between hormones and certain cancers. In his most important research, he proved that administration of the female hormone, estrogen, slowed the growth of prostate cancer in males. Hormone therapy, also called androgen ablation, is now a common treatment of prostate cancer.

Charles B. Huggins was born on September 22, 1901, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in three years from Acadia University in 1920. In 1924, at age 22, he graduated from Harvard Medical School. He served his internship and residency in General Surgery at the University of Michigan. In 1927, he came to The University of Chicago as research fellow, encouraged by the Chairman of Surgery, Dallas Phesmister, to take over Urologic Surgery. Having never done any medical research and having no experience in urology, Huggins bought the standard urology textbook and memorized it in three weeks. He became an assistant professor in 1929, associate professor and United States citizen in 1933, and professor in 1936. In the 1950s, Huggins gave up his surgical practice to focus on research full- time. He had won more than 100 awards and honorary degrees. 

"Research," Huggins said, "has always been my pleasure as well as my job. There is nothing that matches the thrill of discovery:'