Bluhm Family Research Professor of Breast Cancer
Professor of Surgery
Feinberg School of Medicine
At this time, the only successful breast cancer prevention strategy for women with BRCA gene mutations is surgical removal of the breasts and/or ovaries. Alternative, non-surgical preventive interventions are badly needed to replace some, if not all, of these invasive procedures. The progesterone pathway is increasingly recognized to be important in the development and progression of breast cancer, but anti-progesterone medications have not so far been used, partly because of safety concerns, but also because their effectiveness had not been proven. Over the past few years, with BCRF support, Dr. Khan has studied new (and safer) anti-progesterone agents in breast cancer prevention models, with encouraging results. Her studies have shown that the anti-progesterone drug telapristone decreases tumor formation in a laboratory model of breast cancer and she has completed an early phase trial of telapristone in women with Stage I-II breast cancer. Her team has established a method of growing breast tissue from BRCA1/2 carriers and non-carriers in the laboratory to study the effects of hormones and anti-progesterone drugs on cell growth. In the coming year they will test the combination of anti-progesterone and anti-estrogen strategies, with the expectation that the combination would be 1) more effective than each drug alone, and 2) that combining drugs would allow them to use lower doses of each drug, potentially reducing the side effects while maintaining the effectiveness. The studies represent another step towards improving prevention options for high-risk women by making effective drugs more tolerable and more effective
Dr. Seema A. Khan is Professor of Surgery in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, and the Bluhm Family Professor of Cancer Research. She is the Co-leader of the Women’s Cancer Research Program at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her research focuses on applying biomarker knowledge to improve breast cancer risk stratification and develop preventive interventions for high risk women. Her research is funded by the NIH (NCI), The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Avon Foundation, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Current studies include an examination of the effects of progesterone antagonists in women with breast cancer, and a study of breast cancer risk biomarkers in benign breast biopsy samples. In addition, Dr. Khan’s group is working on the development of transdermal delivery of drugs to the breast. She chairs a Phase III trial for the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group which will investigate the role of local therapy for the primary tumor in women presenting with Stage IV breast cancer. Recently completed research includes a case/control study of hormone levels in nipple aspirate fluid.