The current classification of triple negative breast cancer by a lack of receptors really tells us what this form of breast cancer is not, but does not tell us what it is. On-going research studies have been attempting to more clearly characterize triple negative breast cancer in hopes of developing personalized and targeted therapies for TNBC. One such study was recently published and is free to read online.
In this study researchers identified 587 TNBC cases and analyzed their gene expression profiles to better characterize the molecular subtypes of triple negative breast cancer. The researchers reported that they identified 6 TNBC molecular subtypes and that the subtypes had unique responses to treatments. These subtypes are briefly described below.
- Basal-Like - two basal-like molecular subtypes were identified and called BL1 and BL2. These subtypes had elevated expressions of cell growth cycle genes and DNA damage response genes. These subtypes were primarily responsive to treatment with cisplatin.
- Mesenchymal Type - two mesenchymal types, labeled M and MSL, were identified. These two molecular subtypes showed high gene expression patterns linked to growth factor pathways and to the epithelial-mesenchymal transition. These subtypes were mainly responsive to dasatinib and NVP-BEZ235, a specific cell kinase inhibitor.
- Immunomodulatory - one immunomodulatory (IM) subtype was identified. This subtype expresses high levels of genes associated with the immune system.
- Luminal Androgen Receptor - one luminal androgen receptor (LAR) TNBC subtype was identified. This subtype was characterized by a high level of androgen receptors and it was senstive to the androgen receptor blocker bicalutamide.
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