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Is Triple Negative Breast Cancer Treatable

Does Immunotherapy 1 Inhibitors Improve Pathological Complete Response

How Is Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Treated?

The programmed cell death 1 inhibitors nivolumab and pembrolizumab and the programmed cell death ligand 1 inhibitor atezolizumab are monoclonal antibodies designed to release inhibition of the PD-1/PD-L1mediated immune response, whereas ipilimumab releases inhibition of the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 -mediated immune response. TNBC tumour cells use the PD-1/PD-L1 and CTLA4 immune pathways to avoid immune surveillance and proliferate but these monoclonal antibodies facilitate an effective immune-mediated and anti-tumour response48.

Pembrolizumab combined with anthracycline and taxane chemotherapy has pushed the pCR boundary even further. Impressive pCR rates of up to 90% have been reported in phase 1b and 2 clinical trials .

The Prognosis For Patients With Triple

Prognosis refers to the likely outcome of treatment for patients with triple-negative breast cancer. Unlike other types of breast cancer that have a well-proven set of treatments, triple-negative breast cancer is still in the process of being researched for a more standardized treatment plan. Because of this, several treatments may be needed to find one that is effective. Studies have shown that triple-negative breast cancer is more likely to have metastasized , have a higher grade, and are more likely to recur after treatment.

How Life Expectancy And Relapse Differ From Positive Tumors

Doru Paul, MD, is triple board-certified in medical oncology, hematology, and internal medicine. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and attending physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Questions about the survival rate and recurrence rate are very common when someone is diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. While prognosis is, on average, poorer than with hormone receptor or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 positive tumors, triple-negative breast cancer is a very diverse disease.

On a positive note, and unlike hormone-positive tumors that commonly recur late , late recurrence is less common with triple-negative tumors. The recent approval of immunotherapy only for triple-negative disease is also optimistic.

This article looks at factors that may affect survival or recurrence of triple-negative breast cancer, as well as the statistical rates of both. It also discusses life expectancy with stage 4 and recent case reports of some longtime survivors.

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How Effective Is Immunotherapy In Treating Triple

In stage 1 to 3 triple-negative breast cancer, immunotherapy is sometimes used to shrink a tumor before surgery.

In stage 4 breast cancer, immunotherapy is often combined with chemotherapy. For some people, adding immunotherapy to chemotherapy improves outcomes. A recent clinical trial studied immunotherapy treatment in women with advanced triple-negative breast cancer. In this trial, half of the group got chemotherapy, and the other half got both chemotherapy and immunotherapy. On average, it took longer for the cancer to progress in the people who got immunotherapy.

Immunotherapys side effects are different from those of other cancer medications. The most common ones are fatigue, rash, and diarrhea.

Will Ever Be A Cure For Triple

Treatments for Triple

Triple-negative breast cancer is curable when a doctor diagnoses it during the first three stages , said Dr. Jacoub. He treats stages 13 with everything he can in order to remove and destroy the cancer.

However, the ability to cure triple-negative breast cancer is hindered by recurrence or metastasis past the lymph nodes. Triple-negative breast cancer is the of breast cancer to return.

The outlook for people with localized triple-negative breast cancer over a 5-year period is good. Around 91% of people will survive to the 5-year mark.

If the cancer spreads to local tissue or lymph nodes, however, the 5-year survival rate drops to 65%. If it spreads to other organs or tissue, the rate falls to 12%.

These figures are based on data for people who received treatment in the past. Newer methods have changed the outlook, which will continue to shift as different treatments become available.

Anecdotally, Dr. Nan has a segment of patients who have responded to immunotherapy treatment for longer than 5 years.

Maybe if follows these long enough, some may still be alive after more than 10 or 15 years, then we can say cured, he said. With developed or newer types of immunotherapy, may be able to cure stage 4 cancer in the future.

Dr. Jacoub agreed that the outlook is changing with newer treatments. He also noted that although some people have a reduced quality of life while undergoing treatment, others can maintain a good quality of life.

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How Common Is Tnbc

About 15-20 percent of all breast cancers are TNBC or basal-like tumors .

TNBC tends to occur more often in :

  • Younger women
  • People with an BRCA1 inherited gene mutation
  • Black, non-Hispanic Black and African American women

TNBC may also be more common among Hispanic women compared to non-Hispanic white women .

A Young Woman With A Rare Breast Cancer Looks Ahead To Her I Do

It began with a self-exam. Caitlan Reese, then 29, discovered a lump in her breast in October 2019. For this fourth-grade teacher, the discovery kicked off a month of appointments, including a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. Then, during the week of Thanksgiving, Caitlan received her diagnosis: triple-negative breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer is rare, accounting for about 10 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses but its most frequently diagnosed in people who are young and African American. Triple-negative breast cancer, which is more aggressive and likely to spread than other forms of breast cancer, is defined by what it lacks. It doesnt have the three receptors that breast cancer usually has: estrogen, progesterone or a protein called HER2. That means that in addition to being more aggressive, it can be more complicated to treat.

Caitlan lives in Hickory, but her doctor referred her to breast cancer care at Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute. Shes not alone in travelling for treatment here due to the expertise of its team, Levine Cancer Institute has become a destination site for triple-negative breast cancer patients. Women from across the region come here for multidisciplinary treatment of this rare, aggressive form of breast cancer, as well as supportive oncology services.

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I Have Triple Negative Breast Cancer What Can I Do To Help Myself

You already took the first step when you decided to help yourself. Many times cancer makes people feel as if theyve lost control of their lives. Committing to self-care is one way to overcome that feeling. Here are some things you can do during and after your treatment:

  • Triple negative breast cancer is a rare and often misunderstood illness. Many people dont realize this cancer cant be treated the same as other breast cancers. As a result, you might feel isolated and alone with your cancer. If that happens, your healthcare provider can direct you to TNBC support groups and programs where you can talk to people who understand your experience.
  • Youll probably need or want help while youre going through treatment. Your friends and family likely are anxious to do what they can. Let them know how they can help you.
  • If you will need cancer surgery, ask your healthcare provider what to expect immediately after surgery and any follow-up treatment. Knowing what to expect will help you focus on what you can control rather than what you cant control.
  • Cancer is stressful. You might find activities such as meditation, relaxation exercises or deep breathing exercises help to ease your stress.
  • Chemotherapy treatments might affect your appetite. Try to eat a healthy diet, and talk to a nutritionist if you’re having trouble eating.
  • Radiation treatment can leave you feeling exhausted. Plan to rest as much as possible during your treatment.

Where Do These Numbers Come From

Research now showing different treatment options for triple negative breast cancers

The American Cancer Society relies on information from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program database, maintained by the National Cancer Institute , to provide survival statistics for different types of cancer.

The SEER database tracks 5-year relative survival rates for breast cancer in the United States, based on how far the cancer has spread. The SEER database, however, does not group cancers by AJCC TNM stages . Instead, it groups cancers into localized, regional, and distant stages:

  • Localized: There is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the breast.
  • Regional: The cancer has spread outside the breast to nearby structures or lymph nodes.
  • Distant: The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, or bones.

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Not Just Treating Cancer But Caring For Caitlan

As these teams collaborated in Caitlans cancer treatments, even more teams supported her personally. One way they supported her was to help her through the side effects of chemotherapy. Caitlans always been healthy shes never broken a bone or even been stung by a bee and she was concerned, understandably, about side effects.

We have good supportive care specialists who can help patients through chemotherapy by lessening side effects like nausea, Dr. Tan says.

In addition, the Levine Cancer Institute team introduced Caitlan to the fertility department for fertility preservation treatments. This maximizes her chances of having a family after undergoing chemotherapy. They also introduced Caitlan to the Young Womens Breast Cancer Program, which is co-directed by her surgeon, Lejla Hadzikadic-Gusic, MD.

Im loving all the virtual options! Caitlan says. I have been to the virtual support group meetings, the cooking classes and virtual yoga.

Her care team also incorporated virtual appointments when necessary to minimize the disruption to Caitlans life and work.

A lot of patients find that a cancer diagnosis becomes their full-time job, says Dr. Prabhu. When we could, wed schedule virtual appointments with Caitlan that she could have during 15-minute breaks between teaching classes, as opposed to her taking a whole day off from work. She still had all the best care without it being as disruptive to her daily life.

A Note About Statistics

Survival rates are statistics. As such, they tend to tell us how the average person will do with an average triple-negative breast cancer. But people and tumors arent statistics. Some people will do better, and some people will do worse.

Very importantly, statistics are usually several years old. In order to calculate five-year survival rates, a person would have to have been diagnosed at least five years prior, and there is lag time. The treatment of triple-negative breast cancer is changing, and new drugs have been approved.

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Advances In Treatment Of Tnbc

TNBC has a high probability of recurrence within the first 3 years after diagnosis, and when it spreads it often involves visceral organs, such as the lung, liver, and brain. With this aggressive behavior and short survival once it becomes metastatic, developing optimal therapeutic strategies for the treatment of early TNBC is crucial to prevent recurrence. In the past decade, extensive efforts have been made to find new therapeutic targets of TNBC based on its molecular structure. At this time, no targeted agents are approved in the curative or early setting.

However, exhaustive research efforts are underway to identify novel therapeutics for both early and advanced disease. Just last year, atezolizumab, an immunotherapy drug, was approved in conjunction with a standard chemotherapy for the initial treatment of metastatic TNBC. This therapy showed a longer survival for women who received the immunotherapy combined with nab-paclitaxel compared with nab-paclitaxel alone. Clinical trials are integral not only for the treatment of patients today but also to improve the available therapies for patients to come.

What Is The Risk For Triple

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The disease can affect anyone, but is more likely to show up in those who are:

  • Younger than age 50 .
  • Black or Latinx.
  • Living with a genetic condition called BRCA mutation that increases the risk for breast cancer and other forms of cancer. Most cancers diagnosed in people with the BRCA1 mutation are triple negative.

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When Should I Go To The Emergency Room

You might also have unusually strong side effects from your cancer treatment. While your healthcare provider likely gave you medication to help control your side effects, you should go to the emergency room if your side effects continue despite medication.

Many cancer treatments affect your immune system, increasing the chance you will develop infections. Symptoms that might require an emergency room visit during treatment are:

  • Fever of 100.5 and above.
  • Chills.
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting.

Treatments For Metastatic Triple

One myth about treating TNBC is that there arent effective treatment options. The truth is that an array of treatments can improve your care. Your treatment options include many medicines and may also include targeted therapies that treat some triple-negative breast cancers with specific features.

How do you choose from the many available chemotherapy options? It is important to talk with your doctors about how you wish to balance the goals of keeping the cancer under control as long as possible and maintaining your ,or overall enjoyment of life.

Another important point about treating metastatic TNBC is that if you had early- disease, you can retry medicines you were treated with before. A certain treatment may have failed to get rid of the primary disease, but that treatment could still control it in the metastatic setting.

Common chemotherapy treatments for metastatic triple-negative disease are:

  • , which kill cancer cells by stopping growth. Three anthracyclines used in metastatic breast cancer are:

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What Is Tnbc And Who Is At Higher Risk

Estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors are important proteins that help determine the treatment that may be useful in breast cancer. These proteins are expressed on the surface of cells and are very important for medical oncologists not only for risk stratification but also to determine appropriate therapy. These proteins are absent in TNBC, making chemotherapy the most effective treatment of this subtype of breast cancer. Researchers have noted that younger, premenopausal, or African American women are at increased risk of developing TNBC, but the mechanism that causes this to occur is not yet understood.1 According to, TNBC accounts for 10% to 20% of all breast cancers. Risk factors for TNBC include being African American or Hispanic, being younger than 50 years, or harboring the BRCA1 mutation.2

What Research Trials Are Underway

New Treatment Shows Promise For Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Patients

There are several new and ongoing studies looking at treatments for triple-negative breast cancer.

Dr. Fancher encouraged people with triple-negative breast cancer to look into trials. Research on clinical trials is really important, she told MNT.

If you triple-negative breast cancer, consider a clinical trial. It helps move the research forward. There are lots of trials out there, and many are having good results.

Dr. Nan spoke about the Keynote 522 clinical trial . This trial is looking at the use of pembrolizumab, a type of immunotherapy, in combination with chemotherapy before and after surgery.

The trial focuses on people with stage 2 or 3 breast cancer who are at high risk, and pembrolizumab has shown some promise. In fact, the trial has shown a 65% effectiveness rate, indicating no residual signs of cancer in the tissue. This is up from 51% previously.

The phase 3 ASCENT clinical trial is looking at the use of sacituzumab govitecan, an antibody drug conjugate. In a phase 2 trial, it had shown promise in people who had previously received treatment for metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. The Food and Drug Administration gave the drug accelerated approval in 2020.

A person should talk with a doctor before joining a clinical trial. They may be able to help the person find a relevant study or recommend ones that will work best for them.

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New Medications For Metastatic Breast Cancer

Immunotherapy drugs called checkpoint inhibitors have led to a significant improvement in survival rates for lung cancer and melanoma.

In 2019, Tecentriq became the first immunotherapy drug to be approved for triple-negative breast cancer that is metastatic or locally advanced but unresectable . However, in August 2021, Tecentriq’s manufacturer voluntarily withdrew that indication in the United States.

However, also in 2021, the Food and Drug Administration approved Keytruda for high-risk, early-stage, triple-negative breast cancer. It is used in combination with chemotherapy as a neoadjuvant treatment , and then continued as a single agent as adjuvant treatment .

PARP inhibitors are another class of medication that may alter survival rates in the future, particularly among women who have hereditary breast cancer .

For bone metastases, bone-modifying drugs may be effective in both treating metastases and possibly reducing the development of further metastases in bone.

Finally, for people who have only a single or a few metastases , treating these metastases locally may be an option. While studies are young, treating oligometastases may improve survival or even lead to long-term survival for a minority of people.

Basal Cell Breast Cancer

Basal cell breast cancer is a type of breast cancer with a clear pattern of changes in proteins in the cells.

Cancer doctors recognise basal cell breast cancer when they examine the cancer cells under a microscope. It is often linked with triple negative breast cancer.

Basal cell breast cancers are usually triple negative. And most triple negative breast cancers are basal cell cancers. They are similar types of breast cancer, but not exactly the same.

See also

The symptoms of triple negative breast cancer are the same as for other breast cancer types.

See also

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What Is The Staging Of Triple

Staging is the process of determining the extent of cancer and its spread in the body. Together with the type of cancer, staging helps determine the appropriate therapy and predict the chances for survival.

To determine if cancer has spread, medical professionals may use several different imaging techniques, including X-ray, CT scans, bone scans, and PET scans. Staging depends upon the size of a tumor and the extent to which it spread to lymph nodes or distant sites and organs in the body. Examination of lymph nodes removed at surgery and the results of ER, PR, and HER2 tests performed on the tumor tissue also help determine the stage of a tumor.

  • The American Cancer Society defines 4 stages of breast cancer.
  • Stage I is the lowest stage, while stage IV is the highest stage and refers to tumors that have metastasized, or spread to areas distant from the breast.

Most doctors specifically adjust breast cancer treatments to the type of cancer and the staging group.


Many women with breast cancer will require surgery. Broadly, the surgical therapies for breast cancer consist of breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy .

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy destroys cancer cells with high-energy rays. Doctors commonly administer radiation therapy to patients after breast cancer surgery, most commonly after lumpectomy.


Types of chemotherapy include the following:

Other therapies for triple-negative breast cancer


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