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Triple Negative Breast Cancer - Description, Risk Factors, Treatments


Updated April 19, 2011

About Triple Negative Breast Cancer:

Triple negative breast cancer cells are estrogen-receptor negative, progesterone-receptor negative, and HER2 negative. Since the cancer is not fueled by those hormones, nor by the HER2 protein, standard cancer drugs like selective estrogen receptor modulators, aromatase inhibitors, and Herceptin will not be effective in treating this class of cancer. Basal cell breast cancer usually doesn't have receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 –- so it is likely to be triple negative.

Groups At Risk for Triple Negative Breast Cancer:

Although people of any race might develop this form of breast cancer, studies have found that some racial groups are at higher risk. Those groups are:
  • Black
  • Hispanic
  • Asian

Common Features Linked With Triple Negative Breast Cancer:

A population study based on the California Cancer Registry found that women who were diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) were likely to be under the age of 40, Black or Hispanic, and were living at a low socioeconomic status. Their cancers were more aggressive than estrogen-receptor positive tumors, and were diagnosed at a later stage of the disease. In the five years after treatment, risk of recurrence was high.

Risk Factors for Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Treatments For Triple Negative Breast Cancer:

Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation may be recommended to treat this class of breast cancer. Triple negative cancer cells are particularly responsive to chemotherapy. Drugs that may be used are paclitaxel, anthracyclines, and cyclophosphamide. Newer drugs that may be effective are ixabepilone, bevacizumab, cetuximab, and PARP inhibitors.


American Cancer Society. Stubborn Form of Breast Cancer Linked to Age, Race, Ethnicity. Last updated: 2007/04/13.

Cancer. Volume 109 Issue 9, Pages 1721 – 1728. Published Online: 26 Mar 2007. Descriptive analysis of estrogen receptor (ER)-negative, progesterone receptor (PR)-negative, and HER2-negative invasive breast cancer, the so-called triple-negative phenotype. Katrina R. Bauer, MS, Monica Brown, PhD, Rosemary D. Cress, Dr, Carol A. Parise, PhD, Vincent Caggiano, MD.

SABCS 2007: Improving Outcomes in Advanced and Metastatic Breast Cancer Optimizing Treatment of "Triple-Negative" Breast Cancer. Eric P. Winer, MD Erica L. Mayer, MD, MPH.

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