New study aims to deliver better outcomes for triple negative breast cancer patients

New research at the Westmead Institute aims to develop a targeted treatment for triple negative breast cancer patients.

Triple-negative breast cancer accounts for approximately 15 percent of all breast cancers but, unlike more common types of breast cancer, it does not have a targeted or effective treatment leading to poor outcomes for patients.

Lead researcher, Dr Dinny Graham from the Breast Cancer Research Group, said she hopes this study will uncover the receptors present in triple negative breast cancer so that a targeted treatment can be developed.

“We want to be able to develop personalised tests for patients suffering from triple negative breast cancer, but we need to know which receptors to target first,” Dr Graham said.

The most common form of breast cancer is estrogen receptor positive (ER+). The standard care treatment for ER+ patients targets the estrogen receptor and is highly effective.

However, ER+, triple negative breast cancer lacks estrogen receptors and therefore that treatment is not as effective.

The estrogen receptor is just one of a family of 48 different human nuclear receptors that are important to many aspects of human health.

Dr Graham has found that a number of these receptors could perform a similar role as estrogen receptors in diagnosing and treating triple negative breast cancer.

Her team is now testing which nuclear receptors act as biomarkers that may present an opportunity for targeted therapeutic treatments.

“Receptors are recognised as excellent biomarkers and as potential drug targets.

“A number of drugs, targeting a range of receptors are already approved for other clinical applications. We have evidence that some of these might be repurposed to treat triple negative breast cancer.

“This research could mean reduced mortality rates and reduced side effects of untargeted chemotherapy,” she concluded.

This study aims to close the existing knowledge gap and deliver new insights into treating patients with triple negative breast cancer.

Dr Dinny Graham is scientific lead of the Translational Breast Cancer Genomics Group at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research.


1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
144 Australian men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
More than 3,000 Australians will die from breast cancer this year.

This research news was originally posted on The Westmead Institute’s website.

ACRF has provided Westmead Institute with $7m in funding towards cancer research.