Biography

Professor Fernand Labrie was born in Laurierville, Quebec, in 1937. He graduated in 1957 with a BA (magna cum laude) from the Petit Séminaire de Québec and received the Prince of Wales award for graduating first among graduates of all colleges of the province of Quebec affiliated to Laval University. He then received his MD (magna cum lauda) in 1962 from Laval University followed by a PhD (summa cum lauda) in endocrinology in 1966 from the same university. Between 1966 and 1969, he pursued postdoctoral training at the Cambridge and Sussex universities and at the laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, with Professor Frederick Sanger, twice Nobel laureate. He became a Fellow in Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada in 1973. He joined the Faculty of medicine of Laval University in 1966 as Assistant Professor to become Associate Professor in 1969 and full Professor in 1974. Fernand Labrie then founded at Laval University in 1969, the first Molecular Endocrinology Research Laboratory in the world. He has been Head of the Department of Molecular Endocrinology at the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université Laval (CHUL) from 1972 to 2008 and full time physician in the Department of Medicine from 1972 to 2010 at the same hospital. From 1983 to 2009, he has been Research Director of the CHUL Research Center where 150 senior investigators, 450 graduate students and 600 members of personnel were working under his leadership with a budget of over $60 million in 2009. He has also been Head of the Department of Physiology and Anatomy at the Laval University Faculty of Medicine from 1990 to 2002, president of the FRSQ (Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec) from 1992 to 1995 as well as president of the Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism (1978-1979) and of the Canadian Society of Clinical Investigation (1992-1996).

 

Professor Labrie is one of the most accomplished scholars in the international scientific community. He has authored more than 1330 scientific publications with a total of over 50 000 citations, which makes him the most cited Canadian scientist of all disciplines by other scientists in the world. Professor Labrie’s first major contribution to clinical medicine has been in the field of prostate cancer by the discovery and clinical development of medical castration with gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists for the treatment of prostate cancer. This ground-breaking treatment strategy, generally referred to as "reversible chemical castration", has replaced surgical removal of the testes (orchiectomy) and the use of high doses of female hormones (estrogens), which had so-far been the standard treatments for prostate cancer. With GnRH agonists, both the psychological disadvantages of orchiectomy and the cardiovascular complications of high estrogen doses have been eliminated and the quality of life of millions of prostate cancer patients has been and continues to be improved.

 

Another major contribution of Professor Labrie has been the discovery and clinical application of combined androgen blockade (CAB)[1], the first treatment shown to prolong life in prostate cancer. Professor Labrie has also performed the first randomized study on the use of prostate-specific antigen as a pre-screening test that permits, along with other tests, to diagnose prostate cancer at an early and curable stage. In short, Professor Labrie and his team have established a successful paradigm of prostate cancer treatment which is now helping hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide.

 

It is worth noting that the first approval in the world of a combination of drugs by Health Authorities, namely by Health Canada in 1984 and by the US FDA in 1989, has been based upon the clinical data of Professor Labrie and his colleagues. This combination therapy combines medical (GnRH agonist) or surgical (orchiectomy) castration with a pure antiandrogen and is the basis of the successful use of MDV-3100 and abiraterone acetate in castration-resistant prostate cancer.

 

An observation having a major and general impact for the prevention and treatment of all sex steroid-sensitive diseases is intracrinology and the understanding of its crucial role in breast and prostate cancer as well as all sex steroid-related aspects of menopause. In fact, while approximately 50% of androgens in men are made in peripheral tissues from the precursor dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) of adrenal origin, all estrogens and androgens present in women after menopause are made in peripheral tissues from DHEA by the mechanisms of intracrinology. Most importantly, before the work of Professor Labrie on intracrinology, the lack of estrogens was believed to be the cause of all the problems related to hormone deficiency after menopause, thus explaining why estrogens have been exclusively used as replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms with their now well recognized side effects. Working on intracrinology, Professor Labrie has discovered that the lack of DHEA activity and not the lack of estrogens is responsible for the menopausal symptoms related to hormonal deficiency after menopause. Accordingly, under his leadership, EndoCeuticsTM has completed the appropriate clinical trials under FDA guidance for commercialization of DHEA (Intrarosa) for the treatment of vulvovaginal atrophy as the first indication using replacement therapy with intravaginal DHEA.

 

Professor Labrie’s outstanding contributions to endocrinology and oncology have been recognized by many awards and distinctions. In 1979, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 1981, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, being cited as "one of the leading authorities in contemporary endocrinological research". In 1991, he was made Officer of the National Order or Quebec and, in 1999, he was awarded the prestigious Walton-Killam Memorial Prize of the Canada Council for Arts. He is also the recipient of the Medal of the Collège de France (1982). In 2007, he has received the King Faisal International Award in Medicine for his work on prostate cancer. In 2011, he was awarded the Henry Friesen Award of the Canadian Society for Clinical Investigation/Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Professor Labrie was awarded in 2013 the prestigious Hoffenberg International Medal by the Society for Endocrinology of the United Kingdom. Professor Labrie has been a member of around 70 professional associations and has been invited to deliver more than 500 lectureships worldwide. He has also served as a member, associate member or corresponding member of the editorial boards of a long series of leading scientific journals.

 

Professor Labrie’s rich biography not only reflects his extraordinary capabilities as a researcher, educator, administrator and physician but also gives some insight into his personal hobbies, chief among which are alpine and water skiing. Fernand Labrie has been the founder in 1975 of the Skibec Alpin Skiing Association. He has been the President of the Quebec Ski Federation (1982-1987) and of the Quebec Water Ski Association (1987-1989) as well as Chairman of the World Cup Downhill and Super G Races in 1984 at Mont Ste-Anne, Quebec and Chairman of the Committee of Quebec City bid for the Winter Olympic Games of 2010. 

 

 

[1] A combination of either a GnRH agonist or surgical castration with a non-steroidal anti-androgen to induce simultaneous blockade of androgen production by the testes combined with blockade of the action of the androgens made locally in the prostate from dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) of adrenal origin.