Dissecting the Heterogeneity of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) accounts for 15% to 20% of breast cancers. It is a heterogeneous disease, not only on the molecular level, but also on the pathologic and clinical levels. TNBC is associated with a significantly higher probability of relapse and poorer overall survival in the first few years after diagnosis when compared with other breast cancer subtypes. This is observed despite its usual high sensitivity to chemotherapy. In the advanced setting, responses observed with chemotherapy lack durability. Early-stage clinical studies suggested impressive potential when a poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor is given for the treatment of advanced TNBC with BRCA gene dysfunction. The molecular complexity of TNBC has led to proposed subclassifications, which will be of great value for the development of targeted therapies. In this review, we discuss the biology of TNBC at the pathologic and the molecular levels. We also elaborate on the role of systemic therapies and the results of the first phase III clinical trial evaluating the addition of iniparib, a novel investigational anticancer agent that does not possess characteristics typical of the PARP inhibitor class, in combination with chemotherapy in advanced TNBC.