Think you are too young to get breast cancer...think again!
Black Women at Higher Risk for Aggressive Breast Tumors
Triple negative growths 3 times more likely regardless of age, weight, study finds
Posted March 25, 2009
WEDNESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Black women are three times more likely than women of other races to develop aggressive breast cancer, a U.S. study finds.
The United States has the highest rate of cancer in the world. Black women have a lower overall rate of breast cancer than white women, but when black women do get breast cancer, it's often more advanced when it's diagnosed, is more likely to return after treatment, and has a less favorable outcome.
In this study, Boston University School of Medicine researchers analyzed data on 415 breast cancer cases. They looked at clinical features such as patient age, weight and race/ethnicity, and pathological features including the "triple negative" pattern -- tumors that lack expression of the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor, and the HER2 gene.
"The odds of having a triple negative tumor were three times higher for black women than for non-black women in the study," research leader Dr. Carol Rosenberg said in a news release. "Previously, it was known that premenopausal black women had more triple negative tumors. What we found that was new was that these tumors were just as common in black women diagnosed before or after age 50, and in those who were or were not obese."
"The higher prevalence of triple negative breast tumors in black women in all age and weight categories likely contributes to black women's unfavorable breast cancer prognosis," Rosenberg said.
Triple-negative breast cancer is a subtype of breast cancer that is clinically negative for expression of estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER/PR) and HER2 protein. It is characterized by its unique molecular profile, aggressive behavior, distinct patterns of metastasis, and lack of targeted therapies.
Although not synonymous, the majority of triple-negative breast cancers carry the "basal-like" molecular profile on gene expression arrays. The majority of BRCA1-associated breast cancers are triple-negative and basal-like; the extent to which the BRCA1 pathway contributes to the behavior of sporadic basal-like breast cancers is an area of active research.
Epidemiologic studies illustrate a high prevalence of triple-negative breast cancers among younger women and those of African descent. Increasing evidence suggests that the risk factor profile differs between this subtype and the more common luminal subtypes.
Although sensitive to chemotherapy, early relapse is common and a predilection for visceral metastasis, including brain metastasis, is seen. Targeted agents, including epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors, are currently in clinical trials and hold promise in the treatment of this aggressive disease.
In 2008, it is estimated that over 1 million women worldwide will be diagnosed with breast cancer, of which 172,695 will be classified as "triple-negative." The triple-negative phenotype encompasses a breast tumor subtype that is clinically negative for expression of the estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER and PR) and lacks overexpression of the HER2 protein, with unique prognostic and therapeutic implications.
Over the past decade, our understanding and treatment of breast cancer has undergone a metamorphosis, shifting from a generally homogeneous approach to a more sophisticated view as guided by gene expression analysis.
Multiple studies have reproducibly identified the intrinsic breast cancer subtypes, which include several luminal subtypes characterized by expression of hormone receptor-related genes, and two hormone receptor-negative subtypes - the HER2-positive/ER-negative subtype and the "basal-like" subtype. Contrary to the luminal subtypes, the basal-like subtype is characterized by low expression of ER- and HER2-related genes and clinically is usually, but not always, ER/PR-negative and lack HER2 overexpression, thereby constituting the "triple-negative" phenotype.
Multiple studies have demonstrated that the intrinsic subtypes vary by prognosis, with inferior outcomes illustrated among the two hormone receptor-negative subgroups as compared to the luminal subtypes.[3,4] They may also differ in other important ways. Recent studies suggest that patients with triple-negative breast cancer have a high incidence of visceral metastasis, including brain metastasis. This clinically challenging scenario is an area of fertile research.