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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The ANN INC. Award

Seema Khan, MD

Bluhm Family Research Professor of Breast Cancer
Professor of Surgery
Feinberg School of Medicine
Northwestern University
Chicago, Illinois

Current Research

Progesterone is an important culprit in breast cancer causation, and new anti‐progesterone drugs (CDB 4124 and its derivatives) offer an important but so far unutilized opportunity for breast cancer prevention. Dr. Khan has initiated the first-ever trial of an anti-progesterone medication in early-stage breast cancer patients, with the goal of developing this group of drugs for breast cancer prevention and therapy. (More information on this trial can be found on under the identifier NCT01800422.) The trial is enrolling newly-diagnosed stage I to II breast cancer patients, who will take a daily dose of active drug or placebo for two to ten weeks, while they await surgical therapy. It will provide preliminary information about the ability of this new class of drugs to decrease the growth rate of breast cancer cells, as well as pave the way for additional future studies, including those which test the possibility of using these drugs as a gel on the skin of the breast for breast cancer prevention. In parallel, Dr. Khan has conducted experiments that show that these drugs effectively block the progesterone receptor, decrease the growth rate of breast cancer cells in culture, and prevent progesterone-induced tumors in a laboratory model. Her team will now perform additional laboratory studies that will help to identify to the groups of women who will benefit most from this group of drugs.

Mid-Year Summary

This project focuses on the development of anti-progesterone agents for the prevention and therapy of breast cancer; to this end, Dr. Khan’s team is conducting both clinical and laboratory studies. They have currently 23 women registered in their trial of an anti-progesterone medication (telapristone acetate) for breast cancer prevention and therapy (NCT01800422 at They hope to complete the recruitment late 2014. This trial will give researchers preliminary information about the ability of this new class of potential breast cancer drugs to decrease the growth rate of breast cancer cells. In parallel, they have conducted experiments to examine progesterone signaling in human breast cells and cancer cell lines. These progestogens increased secretion of a progesterone response protein (RANKL) in benign breast organoids, while telapristone acetate effectively blocked the growth-promoting effect of progestogens via the progesterone receptor, and decreased the expression of genes related to cell growth. Theirfindings continue to support the potential utility of this group of drugs in breast cancer therapy and prevention.


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 possible preventive interventions for high risk women. Her research is funded by the National Cancer Institute and several non-profit organizations, including BCRF.

Her current studies include an examination of the effects of progesterone antagonists in women with breast cancer, a large case/control study of hormone levels in nipple aspirate fluid (with the goal determining how estrogen levels in breast fluid impact breast cancer risk); and a study of breast tissue hormone levels and gene methylation in breast epithelium. In addition, Dr. Khan’s group is working on the development of transdermal delivery of drugs to the breast. In the context of breast cancer therapy, Dr. Khan chairs a Phase III randomized trial for the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (E2108) which will investigate the role of local therapy for the primary tumor in women presenting with metastatic breast cancer.

Dr. Khan is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and a member of many professional societies. She sits on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Cancer Research and is a reviewer for several highly-regarded scientific journals.