I promise

"I promise, Suzy... Even if it takes the rest of my life." - Nancy G. Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

What is Triple Negative Breast Cancer?


Just in recent years, Triple Negative Breast Cancer has sparked interest in the news where instead of calling the tumor as ER-negative, PR-negative, and HER2-negative; researchers began using the shorthand term, "Triple Negative," dubbed the "new type" type of cancer. Being Triple Negative, you don't have a targeted therapy and that your only treatment option is chemotherapy.

Triple Negative is seen in about 15% of all breast cancers. Triple Negative is a very aggressive cancer that tends to strike younger women, pre-menopause, especially among African-American women and women who have BRCA1 mutations. The tumor tends to be fast growing and is less likely to show up on an annual mammogram. TN is more likely to metastasis early on; has a high rate of recurrence in the first 2-3 years from diagnosis and has a poorer prognosis than other types of breast cancer due to lack of specific, targeted treatment for TNBC.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2012

News from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium I

" ...emphasis on understanding the biology of triple negative breast cancer and using that knowledge to develop new, more targeted treatments. There are a number of important studies that focus on the specific factors that make TNBC different from other types of breast cancer. More and more, researchers are zeroing in on biology and genetics, on identifying subsets of patients who respond to specific therapies-and understanding why that occurs."

News from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium II

Among the key points that the panel made were:
  • TNBC is a "very diverse, heterogeneous" group of diseases-not a single disease entity. Dr. Pietenpol's group has identified at least six or seven different subtypes of TNBC, and other groups have discovered a wide range of genetic mutations that occur in different TNBC subtypes.

  • The clinical behavior of these different subtypes-how aggressive they are, how they respond to specific treatments depends to a very large extent on their molecular profile.

  • The genetic mutations found in individual tumors change as the tumor grows and progresses-tumors evolve in a way that Thomas Westbrook, PhD, compared to the Darwinian process of selection in which the "fittest," most adaptable cells grow and divide successfully.
News from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium III

"At yesterday's Educational Session, for example, one study analyzed data from 21 different sources and eight different countries. Virtually every panel and session features presenters from countries around the world. International clinical trials have now become the norm. The ability of major organizations from every corner of the world to collaborate and share data means that trials can not only be done faster, but that they are also more likely to take into account the very real differences that exist in diverse populations."

News from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium IV

Dr. George Sledge
Expert Perspective: An Interview with George Sledge Jr., MD

Dr. Sledge is a Distinguished Professor at the Indiana University of Medicine and the co-leader of the Breast Program. In January 2013, he will move to Stanford University where he will be the Chief of Oncology.
What is the most important news about TNBC coming out of this meeting?
To be honest, there isn't any one study or one group of studies that represents a major change in the way we treat TNBC today. The real news has been more directed at ER+ and HER2 positive breast cancers. In the last year and a half though, we are seeing some very promising work that I believe will lead to significant improvements in treatment and outcomes over the next five years.
These include some excellent work presented yesterday by Jennifer Pietenpol whose group has identified six distinct subtypes of TNBC. This provides the opportunity to develop therapies that are targeted to the specific genetic profiles of these subtypes.
Some of these cell lines may respond very well, for example, to platinum based chemotherapy. For years, we have been using these drugs and seeing some patients respond very well, and others, not at all. It is very possible that these differences can be explained by identifying the subtype of TNBC that is involved.
Other subtypes may respond to PARPs that inhibit the cancer cell's ability to repair DNA damage. One subtype, which Dr. Pietenpol calls Luminal Androgen Receptor positive actually has a target receptor that we can shut down. The biology is going to be therapeutically very relevant in the future.
Why is TNBC so complicated?
Triple negative breast cancer is a genomic grab bag, a large collection of different diseases. In addition, it really is genomic chaos. When you do sequencing on these tumors, you find multiple genetic mutations that occur in different combinations. This means that it is a very complex group of diseases-and it makes designing clinical trials very complicated as well.
Why can't you target these mutations the way you do with other cancers?
First, we have to identify the driver mutations, and then they have to be actionable. That means we need a drug that targets the specific mutation. One complicating feature of TNBC is that many of the mutations represent a loss of function or cell regulation. It is much harder to fix something that is lost than it is to shut down something is being over expressed, the HER2 gene, for example. We know that a mutation in the P53 gene is linked to a number of cancers, including TNBC-but we don't have a way yet of turning that into something biologically actionable, in other words a treatment.
We also know that TNBC is linked to the loss of the cell's normal ability to repair damage to its DNA-and that is a very hard thing to fix. It also contributes to the large number of diverse mutations that we see in these tumors.
The other thing to remember is that the molecular profiles of cancers change. I tell my oncology fellows that cancers are like criminals tying to escape. If you set up a roadblock but only at one point, they will find a different way out. To outsmart the cancer, we need multiple roadblocks-and frankly, right now, we are not very good at doing that.
Why does this make clinical trials so hard to design and do?
When you have multiple subtypes and multiple driver mutations, it becomes increasingly difficult to design trials that will have achievable end points and involve a sufficient number of patients. The logistics are difficult, obtaining patient consent and participation is difficult, persuading drug companies to fund these trials is difficult. We may know that there are as many as five driver mutations involved in TNBC, but we have never done a trial in which we inhibited more than two.
What are the most promising areas?
Kinases have been the golden road to progress against cancer in the last decade. We can continue to work hard in that area, developing combination therapies that combine our knowledge of genetics with drugs-just like we do for HER+ cancers. Or we can look at different approaches, including immunologic therapies. If you had asked me even three years ago whether immunotherapy would be promising, I would have said no way, but there is very interesting work right now in that area.
I also think that PARP inhibitors have promise for TNBC. Two years ago, the big news was the failure of the PARP inhibitor trial, but that turns out to be more of a drug failure than a concept failure. I think these drugs will prove useful in the BRCA 1 and BRCA2 populations.
I also see some rapid therapy advances using the new information about subtypes. The key will be to define the subpopulations that will respond to specific approaches.
What is the importance of having a global approach to tackling TNBC?
TNBC really does have a huge global impact. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is the dominant type of breast cancer-and that is true in many low and middle income countries throughout the world. In those countries, you have young women being diagnosed with this disease. They have no access to screening or early diagnosis, it can take literally months to get into the medical system and get a biopsy-and no one has thousands of dollars to pay for treatment. So, it is devastating, and presents a real world challenge.
A final word?
We don't need a magic bullet for TNBC. We need a magic shotgun. It is going to be a long haul and it's not going to be easy-but I really believe that we will see real progress on multiple fronts in the next few years.

Christine Wilson for TNBC Foundation

News from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium VI

Neoadjuvant Therapy is More Effective for Very Young Breast Cancer Patients
A study done by the German Breast Group reviewed the data from eight trials in which patients with breast cancer received neoadjuvant chemotherapy prior to their surgery. Their goal was to compare the rates of complete pathologic responses-meaning that there was no evidence of disease at the time of surgery-and then compare the overall disease free survival, local recurrence free survival and overall survival by groups.
Approximately a third of the patients of the very young patients (35 and under) had TNBC, with the percentage decreasing in the older age groups. The study found that the youngest patients, those in the 35 and under group had the highest rate of pathologic complete responses. In that group, the TNBC patients had the highest response rate of all, 35%.
The group concluded that very young women were more likely to achieve a complete response after neoadjuvant therapy and that this response improved their survival. They also concluded that breast cancer in the very young is biologically different than in older patients.
This is a strong argument for having neoadjuvant chemotherapy, an approach that is becoming the standard of care for young patients and those with TNBC.

HDAC Inhibitors Enhance Treatment with PARPs and Cisplatin
HDACs or histone deacyetylase inhibitors work by damaging DNA and depleting the levels of special proteins in the cells that repair this damage. A study done by a group at the University of Kansas provides evidence that combining these HDAC inhibitors with PARP inhibitors and cisplatin creates a synergistic effect that causes TNBC cells to die. The trial supports beginning new trials that combine these agents.
Kapil N. Bhalla, MD, who presented the study said, "Complex biology requires complex combinations of therapy."

Profiling TNBC after Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy Identifies Targetable Molecular Changes
This study relates directly to the emerging information about the biological and genetic character of TNBC, and has direct clinical implications. In this study reported by Justin Balko, MD, of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, researchers did molecular profiling for TNBC patients who had residual disease after they finished their neoadjuvant therapy. Having residual disease after finishing pre-surgery chemotherapy is generally associated with a poorer prognosis, but as Dr. Balko stated, "Up to now, we have not known how to treat these patients. We don't have any targeted therapies."
This work represents a step towards changing that picture. The group analyzed 114 TNBC tumors and found a wide range of mutations. Approximately 90% of patients had at least one mutation that could potentially be targeted with drugs. They also identified a mutation, JAK2, not previously known to exist in TNBC, in 11% of patients. While patients with this mutation appear to have a worse prognosis, it is a potentially targetable with new therapies.
One important finding is that many patients have more than one mutation which means that in order for treatment to be effective, it will probably be necessary to use more than one agent. The key, according to Balko, is to distinguish the true driver mutations, the ones that are essential to cancer growth, from those that do contribute to cancer growth and spread.
This study provides strong support for doing genetic sequencing on TNBC tumors, and initiating new clinical trials using molecular targets as adjuvant therapy for women with residual disease following surgery.

Christine Wilson for TNBC Foundation

http://www.tnbcfoundation.org/sabcs/index.html  (Click link for more)


  1. The post is describing San Antonio breast Cancer symposium Good post

  2. Awesome information about breast Cancer ,its good thoughts to be share.

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