A new look at triple-negative breast cancer


By Jan Jarvis


 
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is often aggressive, hard to treat and disproportionately affects carriers of the BRCA1 gene mutation and younger women of African origin.

Researchers at UNT Health Science Center have received a $1.9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to help develop a new therapy that holds promise for the 38,000 to 55,000 women who are diagnosed with this disease each year.

Jamboor K Vishwanatha, PhD, and his colleagues – Pankaj Chaudhary, PhD, and Sumihiro Suzuki, PhD – will measure a protein called Annexin A2, which is shed from cancer cells and circulates in the blood.  This protein leads to the aggressiveness of triple-negative breast cancer and its metastasis to other organs, said Dr.Vishwanatha, Regents Professor and Vice President for Diversity and International Programs.

“Our research could potentially lead to a biomarker that can predict aggressive TNBC metastasis in African-American women, and possibly lead to development of new therapeutic options for women with this type of breast cancer,” Dr. Vishwanatha said.

About 15 percent to 20 percent of breast cancers are triple-negative. This means that three common receptors known to fuel most breast cancer growth – estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene – are not present in the tumor. As a result, common treatments like hormone therapy and drugs that target estrogen, progesterone, and HER-2 are ineffective.

Triple-negative breast cancer is prevalent in women who carry a mutated copy of the BRCA1 gene and in women of African descent. Those who are diagnosed with TNBC have a high frequency of metastasis to the lung, liver and brain, and survival is generally poor.

African-American women with TNBC tend to have worse clinical outcomes compared with women of European descent who have the disease. The disease is often more aggressive in African-American women.

The research could lead to better treatments for those who are disproportionately affected by this disease, said Dr. Chaudhary, Research Assistant Professor in the Institute of Molecular Medicine.

“We predict the results arising from the proposed studies will lay the foundation for future studies to determine if circulating levels of Annexin A2 need to be taken into consideration during study design in metastasis detection, prognosis, and therapy for African-American patients with TNBC,” Dr. Chaudhary said.

Dr. Suzuki, Associate Professor and Chair of Biostatistics and Epidemiology in the School of Public Health, will oversee data management, data cleaning and preparation, and data analyses.

To conduct this project, Dr. Vishwanatha is working with collaborators from across the country and around the world, including 14 institutions in Africa and Europe.

Namus Fc
A last chance for families with missing loved ones

By Jeff Carlton   The databases of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) contain files on more than 1,000 active missing person cases in Texas and about 14,000 nationwide – each one a tragedy for the families involved. “I’m not sure we can help a family fin...Read more

Apr 18, 2018

Rita Fc
Professor honored for outstanding contributions to field of biomedical engineering

By Alex Branch   Rita Patterson, PhD, a UNT Health Science Center Professor, has been inducted into the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering College of Fellows, one of the highest professional distinctions for medical and biological engineers. Dr. Patterson was rec...Read more

Apr 16, 2018

Vint Fc
‘All I needed was a chance’

By Raul Vintimilla, Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience   I had earned my medical degree and finished a three-year hospital residency in Cuenca, Ecuador when I decided to move my family to the United States. I had discovered during my training that clinical care was not my pass...Read more

Apr 11, 2018

Brandy S Fc
Innovative educator receives “40 under 40” award

By Alex Branch   Brandy Schwarz, DPT, is an educator, mentor and innovator. The UNT Health Science Center Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy adopts all three roles as she prepares students to become health care providers of the future. The Fort Worth Business Press will honor D...Read more

Apr 10, 2018