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Karen L. Kaul , MD, PhD

Department of Pathology


  • Undergraduate: BA, Chemistry, Biology, Drake University
  • Medical School: MD, Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
  • Postgraduate: PhD, Pharmacology, Northwestern University
  • Residency: Pathology, Northwestern University.

Research and Academic Interests

Molecular biology in clinical medicine.

Our laboratory is involved in translational research using basic molecular techniques to diagnose and monitor human disease. We have developed a number of in-house assays for the detection of various malignancies and infectious agents, validated these for clinical use, and utilized them to improve patient care and achieve a better understanding of the disease.

Our research focus has been the study of the mechanisms and consequences of metastasis for breast and prostate cancer. We have developed sensitive and specific RT-PCR assays for the detection of breast and prostate epithelial cells, and used these methods to search for occult tumor cells outside the organ of origin in cancer patients, such as blood, lymph nodes, and bone marrow. We have demonstrated, for example, that tumor cells are present in the bloodstream of a subset of patients with prostate cancer, and that tumor cells can be showered into the circulation during surgery. We are currently monitoring these patients and developing animal models in which to study the clinical relevance of these cells, as well as mechanisms to inactivate them.

Additionally, we are utilizing genetic methods to identify new markers for tumor cells. We are particularly interested in those that correlate with a more aggressive phenotype and thus the ability of tumor cells to result in a metastatic lesion.

Honors and Awards

  • (1977) NSF Undergraduate Research Program Fellowship
  • (1978) Phi Beta Kappa
  • (1978) American Chemical Society Award of Excellence in Chemistry
  • (1978) Outstanding Chemistry Graduate, Drake University
  • (1978) Outstanding Biology Graduate, Drake University
  • (1978-1979) Northwestern University Predoctoral Fellowship
  • (1979-1981) NIH Predoctoral Fellowship
  • (1982-1983) American Association of University Women Graduate Studies Fellowship, respectfully declined
  • (1982-1984) Monsanto Fund Fellowship in Toxicology
  • (1983) Hoffman-LaRoche Mechanisms in Toxicity Award to Graduate Students, First Place Award
  • (1983) Mead-Johnson Excellence in Research Award to Graduate Students, Second Place
  • (1983) Gip I. Hudson Memorial Award for Research in Hepatic Disease, presented at the National Student Research Forum
  • (1988-1989) Northwestern Memorial Hospital Young Investigator Award
  • (1989-1990) Cancer Research Foundation Fellow
  • (1989-1992) Schweppe Foundation Fellow
  • (1998-2001) Auxiliary Fellow, Evanston Hospital

Professional Memberships/Affiliations/Activities

  • Director, Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, NorthShore University HealthSystem
  • Program Director, Pathology Residency Program, NorthShore University HealthSystem

Scholarly Work

Publications in Peer-Review Journals:

  1. Oefelein M, Kaul KL, Herz B, Ignatoff J: Molecular detection of prostate epithelial cells from the surgical field and peripheral circulation during radical prostectomy. J Urology,155:238-242, 1996.
  2. Kaul KL, Petrick M, Herz B, Cheng TC: Detection of clonal rearrangement of the T cell receptor gamma gene by polymerase chain reaction and single-strand conformation polymporphism (PCR-SSCP). Mol Diagn, 1:131-137, 1996.
  3. Kiechle FL, Kaul KL, Farkas DH: Mitochondrial Disorders: Methods and Specimen Selection for Diagnostic Molecular Pathology. Arch Pathol Lab Med, 120:597-603, 1996.
  4. Kaul KL, Luke S, McGurn C, Snowden N, Monti C, Fry WA: Amplification of residual DNA sequences in sterile bronchoscopes leading to false-positive PCR results. J Clin Microbiol, 34:1949-51, 1996.
  5. Ignatoff JM, Oefelein MG, Watkin W, Chmiel J, Kaul K:Prostate specific antigen reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay in preoperative staging of prostate cancer. J Urol, 158:1870-75, 1997.
  6. Luke S and Kaul KDetection of breast cancer cells in blood utilizing immunomagnetic bead selection and RT-PCR. Molecular Diagnostics, 3:149-155, 1998.
  7. Oefelein MG, Ignatoff JM, Watkin W, Kaul KClinical and molecular followup after radical retropubic prostatectomy. J Urology 162:307-311, 1999.
  8. Wang SM, Khandekar JD, Kaul KL, Winchester DJ, Morimoto RI: A method for the quantitative analysis of human heat shock gene expression using a multiplex RT-PCR assay. Cell Stress and Chaperones, 4:153-161, 1999.
  9. Smyrk T, Watson P, Kaul KL, Lynch HT:Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes are a marker for microsatellite instability in colorectal cancer. Cancer, 91:2417-22, 2001.
  10. Kaul KLMolecular Detection of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis: Impact on Patient Care. Clin Chem 2001; 47(8):1553-8.
  11. Paule SM, Pasquariello AC, Hacek DM, Fisher AG, Thomson RB Jr, Kaul KL, Peterson LR.  Direct detection of Staphylococcus aureus from adult and neonate nasal swab specimens using real-time polymerase chain reaction.  J Molec Diagn 2004; 6(3):191-6.
  12. Schiller CL, Nickolov AG, Kaul KL, Hahn EA, Hy JM, Escobar MT, Watkin WG, Sturgis CD.  High-Risk Human Papillomavirus Detection: A split-sample comparison of hybrid capture and chromogenic in situ hybridization.  Am J Clin Pathol 2004; 121:537-45.


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