Approximately 15 to 20 percent of breast cancers are triple-negative. The condition is more common in women of African-American heritage and premenopausal women, although women and men of all ages and ethnicities can be affected. Historically, this cancer subtype has not responded to typical breast cancer treatment therapies.
Now, Scientists at the University of Freiburg in Germany say a newly developed inhibitor of the KDM4 enzyme shows promising results in the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer.
This news is encouraging, as the current challenge with treating triple-negative breast cancer lies in the fact that when treating most kinds of breast cancer, doctors target the specific receptor types (estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 – HER2) that cause the cancer to grow. Because triple-negative breast cancer lacks these receptors, it not only requires different treatment, but may also have a poor long-term outcome.
During the study, researchers from the Center for Translational Cell Research and the Center of Clinical Research at the University isolated cancer stem-like cells, which are similar to normal stem cells but promote tumor growth and resilience, to determine how they work. The teams were then able to develop an inhibitor for the epigenetic regulator KDM4, an enzyme that regulates gene expression and has been linked to the development of triple-negative breast cancer.
Using the KDM4 inhibitor, the research teams were able to stop a number of stem-like cell populations from spreading and make the cancer stem-like cells less likely to promote cancer.
Although the newly developed inhibitor yielded promising results on mice, more research is needed before the treatment will be ready for use in humans. However, the new information is encouraging and offers hope that new triple-negative breast cancer treatment therapies will soon be a reality.