Dr. Benita S. Katzenellenbogen is the Swanlund Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Illinois and College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign. She is a world renowned expert on nuclear hormone receptors, especially estrogen receptors and their actions in breast cancer and reproductive tissues. Her research work constitutes many of the pioneering findings in the area of molecular biology of steroid receptor action that have made her a leading figure in endocrinology and women’s health. She continues to make critical contributions that shape the way we think about these important areas of biology and medicine.
Her seminal work elucidated fundamental aspects of structure-function relationships and mechanisms of action of the estrogen receptors alpha and beta, and demonstrated that estrogens have a remarkably broad spectrum of effects on numerous gene networks and pathways in breast cancer cells. This research has provided the framework for our current understanding of the molecular basis for the action of selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) such as tamoxifen and raloxifene in target cells, and for the development of anti-hormonal treatments that are used in breast cancer treatment and prevention. Her laboratory demonstrated that estrogen receptors regulate and function along with multiple cell signaling pathways involving kinase cascades and growth factors, and that these inputs converge at the level of chromatin to regulate gene expression, work that presaged the current active interest in both the non-genomic actions of estrogens and the cross-talk between nuclear receptors and other cell signaling pathways and their contributions to endocrine resistance. She has also characterized the activities of estrogens in menopausal hormone replacement therapies, and diverse ligands for estrogen receptors, including environmental estrogens, phytoestrogens such as genistein, and estrogen receptor subtype-selective ligands in various estrogen target tissues.
Dr. Katzenellenbogen has published more than 290 research articles, contributed 30 book chapters, and co-edited a book 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 from the National Cancer Institute, NIH, the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction (2009) from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Breast Cancer Foundation, the Jill Rose Award from The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and the Ernst Oppenheimer Award and the Roy O. Greep Lecture Award from The Endocrine Society. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and received a Distinguished Alumni Award from The City University of New York and an Honorary Degree from the University of Milan, Italy.
Dr. Benita Katzenellenbogen has been an outstanding and tireless leader in her profession, having served on many important committees and review panels, journal editorial boards, and as President of The Endocrine Society (2000–2001). She served full terms on the NIH Endocrinology and Biochemical Endocrinology Study Sections, was Vice Chair of the American Cancer Society Review Panel on Biochemistry and Endocrinology, and was Chair of the NIDDK Board of Scientific Counselors. She is currently Chair of the External Advisory Committee for the NIH Nuclear Receptor Signaling Atlas (NURSA) and serves on Review Panels for Komen for the Cure, and on NIH graduate and postdoctoral fellowship review committees. She Co-chaired the “Hormone Action” Gordon Research Conference in 1988 and the Keystone Symposium on “The Nuclear Receptor Superfamily” in 2002.
She has also been a role model in teaching and mentoring, and has a truly outstanding record of training more than 80 graduate students and postdoctoral scientists, many of whom are leading distinguished careers in universities and medical centers, governmental agencies, and the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry. For her outstanding record in mentoring, she was recognized with the Mentor Award from Women in Endocrinology in 2011.