Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Triple negative breast cancer is defined as receptor negative. It does not have any of the receptors usually found in breast cancer, including estrogen hormone receptor (ER), progesterone hormone receptor (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER2).
Approximately 10-20% of all breast cancer cases are triple negative breast cancers, which means that the growth of the cancer is not fueled by the estrogen and progesterone hormones or by the HER2 protein.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer Risk Factors
Obesity and increased body mass index increase the risk of triple negative breast cancer. Among the reasons for this situation is a sedentary lifestyle along with an unhealthy diet. As with other types of cancer, individuals with mutated genes, inherited from parents or developed over a lifetime, have a higher risk of developing triple negative breast cancer.
According to some studies, older age also affects the risk of developing triple negative breast cancer. Pre-menopausal triple-negative breast cancer risk is higher than post-menopause. Additionally, according to other data, triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is more common in African American women.
Pregnancy history in women can increase or decrease the risk of triple-negative breast cancer. The risk of this type of cancer is higher in women who have children compared to those who do not.
What are Receptors?
Receptors are protein molecules found on the surface of cancer cells. They work almost like an antenna that acts as a receiver. Cancer cells continue to grow as the receptors receive signals. There are differences between hormone sensitive (ER positive and/or PR positive) and HER2 positive breast cancer versus triple negative breast cancer treatments.
How Is Triple Negative Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
Triple negative breast cancer can be detected by mammography, like other breast cancers. In addition, when the patient notices a mass in the breast, it may be diagnosed after immediately consulting a doctor.
When a mass or growth is detected, the suspicious tissue should be removed and examined via a breast biopsy. The pathology from the biopsy will confirm if there are cancer cells present. If a diagnosis of breast cancer is made, this tumor tissue is then submitted for immunohistochemical examination to determine its estrogen, progesterone, and HER2 receptor status. If all three tumor markers are negative, a triple negative breast cancer diagnosis is made.
What are the Types of Breast Cancer?
In the past, breast cancer was examined in two groups, sensitive and insensitive to the estrogen hormone. Today, breast cancer is divided into 4 main types according to receptors, that is, its biological characteristics.
- Luminal A: Tumors sensitive to estrogen hormone (ER positive)
- Luminal B: Tumors that are sensitive to estrogen hormone and/or also carry HER2 receptors (HER2 positive)
- HER2 positive: Tumors with HER2 receptor insensitive to estrogen hormone
- Triple negative: Tumors that do not carry estrogen hormone and HER2 receptors.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer Clinical Trials
Chemotherapy is the most effective treatment method for TNBC patients. However, as in all types of cancer, clinical studies are ongoing evaluating all breast cancers, including triple negative breast cancer. When some recent clinical findings were examined, chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy was shown to help increase effectiveness.
There are currently drugs that are approved for malignant melanoma, head and neck, and lung cancers that are being studied in TNBC patients. Patients in clinical trials are monitored very carefully during and after treatment. If the treatment that is being studied successfully passes all stages of the clinical trial and obtains FDA approval, it becomes an approach that can be given to many patients.