Understanding the biology of triple-negative breast cancer

C. Criscitiello, H. A. Azim, P. C. Schouten, S. C. Linn, C. Sotiriou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Greater understanding of the biology of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is needed to discern the roughly 60% of node-negative patients who are already cured with locoregional therapy from the 40% who need adjuvant systemic therapy to be cured. Recent evidence suggests that patients with TNBC whose tumours have an activated immune response gene signature have a more favourable outcome than TNBC patients without this signature. For the group who needs additional systemic therapy, the challenge remains to choose the right systemic drug combination for the right TNBC sub-type. Significant heterogeneity exists within the TNBC class that is exemplified by differing chemotherapeutic sensitivity observed for some sub-types. This heterogeneity establishes the need for identifying differentiating molecular markers within the overall class of TNBC disease, which may help refine therapeutic management. In this review, we discuss some of these promising predictive molecular markers for tailoring therapy. In addition, several gene expression profiling and functional studies employing genetic screens that help to establish TNBC sub-groups with varying sensitivities to a variety of targeted therapies currently under clinical investigation are conferred. It is anticipated that a greater understanding of the biology of TNBC and its complex heterogeneity will reveal novel targets or identify markers around which clinical trials in molecularly well-defined sub-groups can be designed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermds188
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue numberSUPPL. 6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


  • Gene expression
  • Molecular markers
  • Triple-negative breast cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Hematology


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