According to the results of a study published in Clinical Cancer Research, women with triple-negative breast cancer (breast cancer that is estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative, and HER2-negative) have an increased risk of distant recurrence and death during the first few years after diagnosis but not thereafter.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States. Although breast cancer survival has improved in recent decades, some women with the disease still experience cancer recurrence and death. Researchers have therefore focused on identifying characteristics of breast tumors that influence prognosis or response to particular therapies.
“Triple negative” breast cancer refers to breast cancer that is estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative, and HER2-negative. These tumors appear to have a relatively poor prognosis. They are more common in African-American women and in women with a BRCA1 gene mutation.
To describe outcomes among women with and without triple-negative breast cancer, researchers conducted a study among 1,601 breast cancer patients. One hundred and eighty of the women (11.2%) had triple-negative breast cancer.
- The average age at diagnosis was younger for women with triple-negative breast cancer than for women with other forms of breast cancer.
- Triple-negative breast cancers were more likely than other breast cancers to be node-positive.
- Even after accounting for factors such as tumor size and lymph node status, women with triple-negative breast cancer were more likely than other women to experience a distant cancer recurrence or death. This increased risk, however, was only seen during the first five years after diagnosis.
- The pattern of distant cancer recurrence was different among women with triple-negative breast cancer than among women with other forms of breast cancer. Among women with triple-negative breast cancer, risk of distant recurrence peaked at roughly three years after diagnosis and then declined rapidly. Among women with other forms of breast cancer, risk of recurrence was fairly constant over time.
The researchers concluded that triple-negative breast cancer has a more aggressive clinical course than other forms of breast cancer, and that the increased risk of recurrence and death is most apparent during the first few years after diagnosis.
Reference: Dent R, Trudeau M, Pritchard KI et al. Triple-negative breast cancer: clinical features and patterns of recurrence. Clinical Cancer Research. 2007;13:4429-4434.