In studies yielding remarkably good results, more than one-half of advanced prostate cancer patients saw their tumors shrink. By administering non-toxic, naturally-occurring hormones, Huggins had produced a new therapy. His epic discovery earned him the Nobel Prize in 1966. But the true beneficiaries were the gravely-ill patients who, with no previous recourse, now had temporary, symptomatic relief. Huggins also tried to remove the adrenal and pituitary glands to block testosterone formation completely. Both methods peaked briefly in the 1940s but disappeared because of too many endocrine complications and too few successes.
Based on its power to counteract testosterone, estrogen therapy emerged quickly after Huggins' successes. But by the early 1970s multi-center studies documented that men on high doses (unlike those undergoing orchiectomy, or testicle removal) had significantly higher non-cancer death rates. Fortunately, by dropping dosages, urologists could retard the tumors without risking the accompanying heart problems.