Date of publication: February 6, 2013
The underlying biology of triple-negative breast cancer suggests that there are several different subtypes of the disease. These results were published in PLoS ONE.
As cancer research has advanced, it’s become apparent that cancers that share important similarities (such as triple-negative breast cancers) can also differ in ways that affect cancer growth and response to treatment. By better understanding the unique characteristics of each cancer, it may be possible to provide more targeted and more effective treatment.
One of the ways in which tumors can differ from one another involves molecules called microRNA. These molecules play a role in regulating the proteins that cells produce. Proteins, in turn, affect how the cells behave.
To explore patterns of microRNA in triple-negative breast cancers, researchers evaluated 165 samples from triple-negative breast tumors, 59 samples of adjacent normal tissue, and 54 samples from lymph nodes with cancer.
- The patterns of microRNA (the microRNA “signatures”) differed among the three types of tissue.
- Two microRNA signatures were predictive of overall survival and distant disease-free survival in women age 50 or younger.
- The types of microRNA signatures that were present suggested that there may be four distinct subtypes of triple-negative breast cancer.
These findings suggest that microRNAs play an important role in the development and spread of triple-negative breast cancer. This information may point the way toward more refined classification of these cancers, new approaches to screening, and more individualized approaches to treatment.