Scientists have discovered an intra cellular pathway, initially not associated with breast cancer, as a driving force behind the highly fatal sub-type of disease.
Researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center found that that the sub-type of cancer was disproportionately over-represented in African American women.
While12 to 15 percent of breast cancers were found in the general population, a staggering 25 percent African American women bore the disease.
According to Tim Lane, researcher and senior author of the paper, the pathway regulates how cells identify and destroy proteins and represents a class of genes called proteasome targeting complexes.
The study observed that basal cancer cells made a new type of proteasome targeting complex while degrading the tumor suppressor gene p27 - one of a handful of proteins that are expressed in normal cells and act to prevent rapid cell growth, indicative of cancer.
Lane explained that beyond chemotherapy, no specific therapeutic target has been identified for this sub-type of cancer and the research could lead to "new paradigm to think about how to treat these cancers".
He said: "The possibility that this new proteasome targeting complex might provide targets for therapeutic intervention is a completely new area for breast cancer research.
"This research has the potential to identify clinically relevant markers of a large subgroup of human breast cancer and find a novel therapeutic target that could be exploited with appropriate pharmaceutical agents."
The research, done in animal models and human breast cancer cell lines, has been published in the November 15 issue of the journal Genes and Development.