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Research projects

Could testosterone be used to treat a very rare cancer?

Dr Pierre Val
Project period
Mar 2024 - Feb 2027
Research Institute
Cancer types
General cancer research
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Pierre Val and his team are investigating whether the hormone testosterone could help to treat adrenocortical cancer, a very rare but aggressive type of cancer.

Hope for the future

Adrenocortical cancer develops in the adrenal glands- two triangular shaped ‘sacks’ that sit on top of each kidney and produce several important hormones that our body needs. Just 1 or 2 people per million develop adrenocortical cancer every year, and this makes it incredibly hard to detect and treat. Unfortunately once the cancer has spread, treatment options are very limited.

But Dr Pierre Val and his team in France have found exciting early evidence that testosterone might help to slow the growth of this cancer. They will now investigate this important finding in more detail. The team believe that this work could lead to a new, and much needed treatment for patients with adrenocortical cancer.

This project is co-funded with Fondation ARC.


Head shot of Dr Pierre Val

Meet the scientist

Pierre is a licensed amateur radio operator talking to fellow radio operators throughout the world. He also enjoys electronics, computer programming, and photography. He runs two to three times a week to release the pressure from work. His favourite book is “the New York Trilogy” by Paul Auster and his favourite movie is “Ghost Dog: the way of the Samurai” by Jim Jarmusch. He really is a foodie, and enjoys everything that’s tasty, elaborate and a bit spicy!

The science

The researchers believe that testosterone could help our immune system to recognize and attack adrenocortical tumours. The hormone seems to help a type of white blood cell, called a macrophage, engulf and ‘eat’ the cancer cells. This slows the speed of cancer growth.

To find out if testosterone really could help to treat this cancer, Dr Val and his team will now test whether the hormone can effectively treat the disease in mice. The mice will have different types of adrenocortical cancer that are molecularly very similar to the human cancer.

Because testosterone is a hormone that our bodies already naturally produce in different quantities, it may not be a suitable treatment for everyone. So Dr Val will also investigate the exact molecular processes that make testosterone such a potentially effective treatment. This will help to identify possible new mechanisms that brand new cancer drugs could target, that should be suitable for more people.

Research into rare cancers can be difficult, which makes this work even more important. Ultimately, Dr Val’s work will help to identify possible new cures that could one day improve the lives of patients with adrenocortical cancer. It will also help us to understand in more detail how hormones can influence cancer growth in general, and how this could be used to find even more cancer cures. 

Head shot of Dr Pierre Val Dr Pierre Val
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