Personal Stories, Headlines & Helpful Information, Research, Dollars Making A Difference
By: Amanda Oberstein
The progress made by research into breast cancer has been
stunning over the more than three decades since Susan G. Komen’s founding. A key turning point was the early discovery
that breast cancer is not one disease, but rather a family of diseases each with
unique characteristics that provide a multitude of opportunities and challenges
Thanks to our growing knowledge, new therapies and targeted
treatments have been developed that are improving survivability for many people
and have replaced the one-size-fits-all treatments Suzy Komen faced.
Yet despite all our advances, more than 41,000 people in the
U.S. die from breast cancer each year.
While there are a variety of reasons for this tragic statistic, one
contributing factor is that we do not yet have a good targeted therapy for one
particularly aggressive form of the disease –
triple negative breast cancer.
Approximately 15-20% of all breast cancers are diagnosed as triple
negative breast cancer (TNBC). They are a
group of breast cancers that get their name for what they are not. In other
words, TNBC lacks the three receptors –estrogen (ER), progesterone (PR) and
human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2)—that are present in a majority of breast
cancer tumors. Tumors that test positive for these receptors can be treated
with several current therapies, but because TNBC lacks all three receptors,
treatment options are limited. Triple negative
tumors cannot be treated with hormone therapy or HER2 targeted therapies. TNBC is also more likely to effect young
women, African-American women and people with a BRCA1 gene mutation.
inhibitors -- drugs that impede an enzyme called poly ADP ribose
polymerase, or PARP – are used to treat people with BRCA mutant TNBC. However,
certain tumors are cunning and can hijack the immune system, causing drug
resistance. When PARP inhibitors stop working, TNBC tumors are more likely to
spread to other parts of the body.
Dr. Jennifer Guerriero, Ph.D, believes this is unacceptable
and is committed to finding scientific breakthroughs to help combat this
terrible disease. Dr. Guerriero has a personal connection to breast cancer: her
grandmother was diagnosed with the disease in 1982. She was inspired by her grandmother’s will to
live, determination and advocacy work, which ultimatelyinformed her decision to pursue a career in breast cancer
research. Unfortunately, her grandmother passed away in 2014, but Dr. Guerriero
carries her grandmother’s memory with her as she searches for better ways to
treat breast cancer and increase patient survival.
An Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the
Director of the Breast Tumor Immunology Laboratory at Dana-Farber Cancer
Institute, Dr. Guerriero is currently investigating ways to improve treatment
response for people with TNBC that also have a BRCA gene mutation. Thanks to
funding from Komen, she seeks to target macrophages, a type of immune cell, to
improve response to PARP inhibitor drugs and improve patient survival. Breast
tumors generally have many macrophages, and certain macrophage types help
tumors grow. In her pre-clinical
research, Dr. Guerriero found that targeting macrophages in BRCA-mutant TNBC
improved overall survival. Ultimately,
she hopes her research will eventually lead to new treatments targeting
macrophages to treat people with TNBC.
Dr. Guerriero’s research is made possible by the generosity
of people like you. Help us fund her research by donating here. Are You In?
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