Breast Cancer Cell Behavior Illuminates More Personalized Treatments

Targeted and individualized breast cancer treatment is viable.

Evaluating the behavior of breast cancer cells can help predict more personalized and efficacious treatment options, according to a study.

These findings, published in Oncogene, provide further evidence that gene expression patterns can help direct the type of therapy a patient may receive, creating more targeted and personalized treatment approaches.

“Breast cancer has numerous subtypes, said investigator Eran Andrechek. “Treatments for these various subtypes have to be different because there are different genes that drive the cancer.”

Breast cancer subtypes included estrogen- or progesterone-receptor positive breast cancer, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, and triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

For the study, investigators examined the unique genetic characteristics and differences within each of the TNBC tumors. The genomic information was then compared to various drugs that could specifically target the tumor activity.

“Triple-negative breast cancer is highly aggressive and currently there are limited treatment options,” Andrechek said. “By looking at the particular gene expression patterns of this cancer and determining the pathways that were activated, or turned on, we identified certain drugs that could turn these pathways off and stop tumor growth.”

The results of the study identified a 3-drug combination, which included the 2 FDA-approved drugs afatinib and trametinib, targeted a specific pathway associated with TNBC. When used together, the drugs stopped the cancer’s growth.

The authors noted that the proof-of-concept study is a promising first step in determining the feasibility of the treatment approach.

“We tested several other drug combinations too and when we expanded our study to include human breast cancers that were grown in mice, we received the same positive results,” Andrechek said. “This gives us a much clearer indication that targeted, individualized breast cancer treatment is viable.”