- About 2.3 million women globally have breast cancer.
- Between 10%–15% of all diagnosed cases are triple-negative breast cancer, which is the most aggressive form and the hardest to treat.
- Researchers from the University of Arizona have developed a drug specifically for treating triple-negative breast cancer with little to no toxic side effects.
Triple-negative breast cancer accounts for between
Now, a team of researchers from the University of Arizona has developed a drug targeted specifically for triple-negative breast cancer. Developed using
In this study, researchers tested the new drug in animal models and are now working towards approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to test the drug in a phase 1 clinical trial in humans.
This study recently appeared in the journal
Triple-negative breast cancer tests negative for three receptors — proteins in or on cells that connect to specific materials in the blood — normally found in breast cancer. These are:
Studies show that
Because of those missing receptors, doctors have fewer options for treating triple-negative breast cancer. For example,
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a protein found on certain cells. This protein can bind to something called epidermal growth factor (EGF). When the two connect, the EGF stimulates cell division and growth. This has some benefits for the body — for example, EGFR and EGF play important roles in the
Reportedly, EGFR is overexpressed in over
According to Dr. Joyce Schroeder, head of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Arizona and senior author of this study, most triple-negative breast cancers express EGFR, making it a potential high-impact target.
The drug developed by the research team blocks EGFR from entering a part of the cell that keeps the cancer alive. The therapy is able to stop the EGFR protein in cancer cells, but not in healthy cells.
“The therapy goes inside the cell and blocks EGFR from accumulating in the
The research team also stated that because their therapy leaves healthy cells alone, there are no unwanted side effects.
“When we tested the drug in animal models, we got this fabulous result where it actually didn’t just stop the tumors from going, it caused them to regress and go away, and we’re seeing no toxic side effects,” Dr. Schroeder says. “We are so excited about this because it’s very tumor-specific.”
And Dr. Schroeder talked about the research team’s next steps for this therapy. “Test it in a
Medical News Today also spoke with Dr. Bhavana Pathak, a board-certified hematologist and medical oncologist at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, about this study.
As a doctor who treats patients with breast cancer, she said her first reaction to this is that it is “exciting” to see a therapeutic that seems to have a number of specificities based on preliminary studies.
“Triple-negative breast cancer, unlike other breast cancers such as
“And so when we come across a drug that potentially could work, especially in this population that has a high prevalence of EGFR mutation, [that is] something we can capitalize on to treat this patient population,” Dr. Pathak added.
However, she stressed this is still in the early stages and that testing in human patients still needs to be done:
“I think the logical next step is to see how it works in humans — phase 1 trials seeing ‘is it tolerable?’ And then additionally, it would be interesting to see how we can use this drug in other ways in terms of cancer therapy. We target the growth mechanism of the cancer, stopping its growth. But another aspect is making sure we can stop its spread — the spread of it is a different mechanism. So to see if you could stop both types of issues within this presentation.”