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New hope for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Scientists at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit have received a research grant from the National Institutes of Health to study a potentially ground-breaking immunotherapy treatment for women with one of the deadliest forms of breast cancer – triple-negative breast cancer.

Many women with triple-negative breast cancer are not helped by traditional chemotherapy methods. The incidence of triple-negative breast cancer is also very high in black women. Tumors are more aggressive and there is more disease when the cancer is discovered.  Cancer cells with low hormone receptor status, or none at all, are very difficult to treat since they have few or no receptors that are responsive to traditional chemotherapy antibodies. Less than 25 percent of all patients with triple-negative breast cancer respond well to chemotherapy and surgery, according to the research, and many suffer from a poor prognosis following treatment. The relapse rate is 80 percent.

"We're targeting a group that no one else can treat. We're trying to increase the complete pathological remission rate," Dr. Lum of the Karmanos Cancer Institute said. "Only about 20 percent of the women are HER2 positive (3+). That leaves about 80 percent of the women who can't get antibody therapy, such as Herceptin."