Breast cancer is a complex disease affecting thousands of Americans every year. However, some types of breast cancer are more aggressive than others, including triple negative breast cancer.
March 3 is Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day, which is dedicated to promoting awareness of the disease. Dr. Jeffrey Rosen, Charles C. Bell professor of molecular and cellular biology and co-leader of the Breast Program in the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine, discusses the prominence of this disease and how researchers at Baylor are studying it in the Q&A below.
Q: How common is this type of diagnosis, and are there specific factors that make someone more prone to this type of breast cancer?
A: Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) represents approximately 20 percent of breast cancer cases, but is still the fifth to sixth cause of cancer-related deaths in women. TNBC is more frequent in African-American women and younger, pre-menopausal women as compared to older post-menopausal women.
Q: What makes triple negative particularly complex to treat?
A: TNBC is not a single disease, but is itself made of multiple subtypes, each tumor having considerable intratumoral heterogeneity and a high number of mutations and genomic alterations, including a small group with BRCA1 mutations.
Q: What kind of research is being done at Baylor to advance our understanding of triple negative breast cancer?
A: Research at Baylor takes advantage of a large number of patient-derived xenograft models and genetically engineered mouse models of TNBC.
Investigators are using functional genetics, proteomic and metabolomic approaches to analyze TNBC to identify new oncogenic drivers and other vulnerabilities, to understand the role of the immune system in treatment response to conventional and immunotherapies, and to discover alterations in metabolism in TNBC that may provide new therapeutic targets.
To schedule a visit with the Smith Breast Center at Baylor, call 713-798-1999 or make an appointment online.
-By Allison Huseman