Benita S. Katzenellenbogen, PhD
2012-2013 BCRF Project:
(made possible by generous support from Play for P.I.N.K.)
Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Cell and Structural Biology
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Dr. Katzenellenbogen’s research group has identified that 14-3-3ζ, a protein important in breast cancer, promotes cancer cell survival by regulating genes that stimulate cell division (mitosis and cytokinesis) and reduce cell death (apoptosis). They have also found that the high levels of 14-3-3ζ contribute to endocrine resistance to tamoxifen. Because overexpression of this tumor marker predicts poor response to tamoxifen, it can be used to improve selection of the type of endocrine therapy most likely to be best for individual breast cancer patients. In continuing studies, Dr. Katzenellenbogen’s team will now block the activity of these downstream genes and determine whether this increases and restores tumor sensitivity to endocrine or chemotherapeutic agents so as to suppress or prevent recurrence of the disease.
Mid-year Progress: Dr. Benita Katzenellenbogen's research group has found that overexpression and dysregulation of 14-3-3ζ and its downstream protein, FOXM1, are major contributors to endocrine therapy and chemotherapy resistance in estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) and estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast tumors. They have shown that these factors contribute to risk of early breast cancer recurrence and distant metastasis, and that targeting these two proteins can enhance the effectiveness of endocrine and chemotherapies. In continuing studies, they are working to restore tumor sensitivity to endocrine and chemotherapeutic agents and reduce risk of breast cancer recurrence by inhibiting the key actions of these two proteins in breast cancers.
Benita Katzenellenbogen is Swanlund Professor of Physiology, Cell and Structural Biology, and director of a breast cancer research group at the University of Illinois and University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign. She is an internationally known endocrinologist and cancer researcher and has been a key scientist in understanding the biology of estrogen receptors and in elucidating mechanisms by which antiestrogens and SERMs, such as Tamoxifen and Raloxifene, are effective in controlling breast cancer. The work of her research group has most recently involved the development of selective hormonal agents for breast cancer treatment and prevention.
The quality and impact of Professor Katzenellenbogen's scholarly achievements are extraordinary. Since joining the faculty of the University of Illinois in 1971, she has published over 250 research articles, has contributed 30 chapters in books, and has co-edited a text on hormone-dependent cancers.
She is the recipient of numerous awards, honors and special fellowships from governmental, private and academic institutions including the MERIT Award (1991-1999) from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, the Jill Rose Award for outstanding research from The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Ernst Oppenheimer Award and Roy O. Greep Lecture Award of The Endocrine Society, the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and the National Scholar Award from the American Association of University Women.
She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and recently served as President of The Endocrine Society, the world's largest professional society representing approximately 10,000 endocrinologists. She has been active on government scientific review panels of the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society, and has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals. She directs an active research unit that has trained over 70 graduate students and postdoctoral scientists, many of whom are leading distinguished careers in academia, governmental agencies, and the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry.