As the current work shows, future sequence-guided clinical trials will require collaborations between major cancer centres, such as Cambridge and Vancouver, which are able to recruit the required numbers of patients from an increasingly better defined disease. That is now one of the priorities of the Breast Cancer Program in Cambridge."—Professor Carlos Caldas, study co-lead, senior group leader at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute and Professor of Cancer Medicine at the Department of Oncology, University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge scientists, led by Professor Carlos Caldas, based at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, working with BC Cancer Agency scientists in Vancouver (led by Professor Sam Aparicio) have jointly decoded the genetic make-up of triple negative breast cancer, which could lead to more effective treatment.
The study but an extremely complex and evolved tumour with an unprecedented range of mutations.
Operating with the complexity of a mini ecosystem, triple negative breast cancers’ evolution before diagnosis may explain its ability to evade current therapies, earning it the distinction as the deadliest form of breast cancer.
The research team, including scientists from BC Cancer Agency, University of British Columbia, Cross Cancer Institute of Alberta and Cancer Research UK/University of Cambridge, unmasked this evolving cellular "ecosystem" and can now estimate how the genetic mutations accumulated prior to diagnosis.
Named for what it isn’t, triple negative breast cancer is currently defined by three missing cancer-causing proteins (the oestrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and ERBB2 receptor), compared to other breast cancer subtypes. Triple negative breast cancer is currently treated as if it’s a single disease, yet it’s clear from this study that patients’ tumours vary drastically across a spectrum of cellular mutations involved in the cancer’s development. Currently, triple negative breast cancer accounts for 16 per cent of all breast cancer diagnoses and approximately 25 per cent of breast cancer deaths.