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Benita S. Katzenellenbogen, PhD

Swanlund Professor
Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Cell and Structural Biology
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, Illinois

Current Research

  • Seeking new therapeutic targets for the development of drugs to prevent drug resistance and improve breast cancer outcomes.

  • Laboratory studies are focused on the development of drugs to block a protein called FOXM1 as a strategy to improve response to anti-estrogen therapies.

  • These efforts have the potential to deliver more powerful anti-estrogen drugs to patients whose tumors have become resistant to these therapies.

Estrogen-driven breast cancer (ER-positive) is the most common breast cancer and is treatable with anti-estrogen (endocrine) therapies, such as tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors. In spite of excellent treatment options and good prognosis, many tumors acquire resistance to these therapies and continue to grow or spread to other tissues, a process called metastasis.

The Katzenellenbogen lab is working to identify new drugs to stop or reverse resistance to anti-hormone drugs to improve breast cancer outcomes. A potential target identified by Dr. Katzenellenbogen's group is a protein called FOXM1.

FOXM1 reduces the effectiveness of chemotherapy in breast cancers that lack estrogen receptors and is associated with resistance to anti-hormone therapies. Dr. Katzenellenbogen's team has shown that blocking FOXM1 can restore sensitivity to endocrine therapies or chemotherapies. Although drugs exist to target this protein, there are several limitations to their clinical use. In the upcoming year, the team will work to optimize the development and delivery of effective inhibitors of FOXM1 and will study how they work with other therapies.

The goal of Dr. Katzenellenbogen's BCRF research is to identify new inhibitors of FOXM1 that can be used alone or in combination with standard breast cancer treatments. These approaches should enhance the effectiveness of endocrine therapies, as well as other chemotherapies, and reduce the risk of recurrence for many breast cancer patients.


Benita Katzenellenbogen is Swanlund Professor of Physiology, Cell and Structural Biology, and director of a breast cancer research group at the University of Illinois 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.

Since joining the University of Illinois in 1971, she has published over 250 research articles, contributed 30 chapters in books, and co-edited a text on hormone-dependent cancers. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors from governmental and private institutions including the MERIT Award (1991-1999) from the National Cancer Institute,  Jill Rose Award from The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Ernst Oppenheimer Award and Roy O. Greep Lecture Award of The Endocrine Society, Distinguished Scientist Award from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and 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. 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. The research unit she directs has trained over 70 graduate students and postdoctoral scientists.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Play for P.I.N.K. Award