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Different subtypes of triple-negative breast cancer respond to different therapies
Date:6/27/2011

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers have identified six subtypes of an aggressive and difficult-to-treat form of breast cancer, called "triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC)."

In the July issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Cancer Center Director Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., and colleagues describe the molecular features of these six distinct subtypes and identify chemotherapies to which the different subtypes respond in cultured cells and animal tumor models. Knowing the specific subtype could help physicians determine which therapies would work best in patients with TNBC and also inform the discovery and development of new drugs to treat this aggressive form of breast cancer, the authors suggest.

Triple negative breast cancers (TNBC) account for 10 percent to 20 percent of all breast cancers and tend to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer.

"It's a pretty significant health problem from the standpoint that 11 percent of Caucasians, 17 percent of Hispanics, and 25 percent of African-Americans have this type of breast cancer," Pietenpol said.

While some patients with TNBC initially respond well to standard chemotherapy, these tumors are more likely to recur after treatment and have a poorer prognosis (less than 30 percent of women with metastatic TNBC which has spread outside the breast survive 5 years).

The difficulty in treating these tumors stems from what they lack.

The term "triple-negative breast cancer," explained Pietenpol, "is just a definition of what (the cancer) isn't."

TNBC tumors lack the estrogen receptors (ER) and progesterone receptors (PR) that drive the majority (about 60 percent) of breast cancers. They also show no amplification of another receptor, called HER2, which drives about 20 percent to 30 percent of breast cancers.

The absence of these receptors means that the tumors are unlikely to respond to hormone therapies like tamoxifen and to therapies ta
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Contact: Dagny Stuart
dagny.stuart@Vanderbilt.Edu
615-322-4747
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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