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Virgil C Jordan




Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC)
  • General profile
General profile


Research Building


Virgil Craig Jordan, OBE, PhD, DSc, FMedSci is a scientist specializing in drugs for breast cancer treatment and prevention. Currently Scientific Director and Vice Chairman of Oncology at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., Jordan was the first to discover the breast cancer prevention properties of tamoxifen. More recently his work has branched out into the prevention of osteoporosis.

A highly regarded researcher, his paper The Effect of Raloxifene on Risk of Breast Cancer in Postmenopausal Women – Results from the more Randomized Trial was one of the top 20 most cited papers in breast cancer research during 2003 and 2004.

Jordan began working on the structure-activity of anti-estrogens as part of his PhD at Leeds University. During that time he met Arthur Walpole the patent holder for the drug that became tamoxifen.

In September 1972 Jordan became a Visiting Scientist at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, Massachusetts. While there he began researching the idea that tamoxifen, a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), could block estrogen receptors in breast tumors. Estrogen receptors in breast tumors attract estrogen which is then absorbed into the cancerous cell and encourages the cell to divide, causing the cancer to grow. Until this time, the treatment for this type of breast cancer was oophorectomy.

Jordan returned to Leeds University as a Lecturer in Pharmacology between 1974 and 1979, after which he spent one year at Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Berne, Switzerland.

In 1980 Jordan joined the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he started to look at the effects of tamoxifen and another SERM, raloxifene, on bone density and coronary systems. This was needed because of the concern that long term use of SERMs could lead to osteoporosis and heart disease. Jordan’s research showed that post-menopausal women who took these drugs did not suffer from a lowering of bone density or an increase in blood cholesterol. Raloxifene is now used in the prevention of osteoporosis. Jordan gained full Professorship at Wisconsin in 1985, the same year his alma mater awarded him a DSc.

In 1993 Jordan became Professor of Cancer Pharmacology at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, IL., and director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. He was the inaugural holder of the Diana Princess of Wales Professor of Cancer Research (1999-2004).

In January 2005, Jordan was the inaugural Alfred G. Knudson Chair of Cancer Research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA. He has recently published work showing that estrogen, given at the right time, causes the destruction of cancer cells rather than feeding their growth. Currently, Jordan is the Scientific Director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Professor of Oncology and Pharmacology and Vice Chair of the Department of Oncology.


  • DSc (1986) University of Leeds, Antiestrogens
  • Postdoctoral (1973) Worcester Foundation, Antiestrogens
  • PhD (1972) University of Leeds, Pharmacology
  • BS (1969) University of Leeds, Pharmacy