Breast cancer has numerous subtypes. Treatments for
these various subtypes have to be different because there are different
genes that drive the cancer.
A Michigan State University breast cancer researcher has shown that
effective treatment options can be predicted based on the way certain
breast cancer genes act or express themselves.
‘Gene expression patterns can help direct the type of therapy a breast cancer patient might receive, paving the way for more targeted and personalized approaches to care.’
The research, published in the journal Oncogene
, offers up
proof that gene expression patterns can help direct the type of therapy a
patient might receive, paving the way for more targeted and
personalized approaches to care.
The National Institutes of Health and the Susan G. Komen Foundation funded the study.
Estrogen- or progesterone-receptor positive breast cancer, where
hormones drive cancer growth, is one subtype. Other subtypes include
human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, or HER2, which is a protein
that also promotes the development of the disease, and triple-negative
breast cancer, or TNBC. This cancer type isn't driven by either the HER2
protein or hormone receptors and is the one that Eran Andrechek, a
physiology professor in the College of Human Medicine, focused on
in his study.
His research, also led by doctoral student Jing-Ru Jhan, first
examined the unique genetic characteristics and differences within each
TNBC tumor. Then Andrechek's team took the genomic information they
gathered and compared it to various drugs that could target the specific
"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."
Andrechek's study discovered that a three-drug combination,
including two FDA-approved drugs - Afatinib and Trametinib - also
targeted a specific pathway associated with triple-negative breast
cancer and together, were effective at stopping the cancer's growth.
Currently, both drugs are commonly used for other types of cancers.
Andrechek said his proof-of-concept study is a positive first step
in determining the feasibility of this type of 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 result," Andrechek said. "This gives us a
much clearer indication that targeted, individualized breast cancer
treatment is viable."