Why TNBC Is Such A Biatch!

why is tripple negative breast cancer so bad

When you first find out that you have breast cancer, your doctor searches for the presence or absence of three receptors, proteins that live inside or on the surface of a cell and bind to something in the body to cause the cell to react. You may have heard of the oestrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).

In oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, progesterone receptor-positive breast cancer and HER2 positive breast cancer, treatments prevent, slow or stop cancer growth with medicines that target those receptors. There are drugs available that specifically target these receptors and effectively kill the cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) need different types of treatments because they are oestrogen receptor negative, progesterone receptor negative and HER2 negative. Chemotherapy has been shown to be the most effective treatment for triple-negative breast cancer. For patients and doctors alike, Triple negative breast cancer that is resistant to chemotherapy is one of the most challenging forms of breast cancer. Sadly, unlike the other breast cancer types, there are currently no targeted therapies for triple negative breast cancer in patients who fail chemotherapy.

tripple negative breast cancer louise decelis blog

While Lou and I often talk of mortality and the daunting odds, she still finds it hard to address the median survival rates. Which is a good thing because we have health, support, family and other resources to blow even the best case statistics out of the water.

There are patients living with TNBC and responding to Immunotherapy, which gives us great hope, I am talking to some of these patients and will continue to talk to more. It’s a very small group as only 15% of breast cancer cases are TNBC and only a small percentage of this group doesn’t respond to chemo. Sucks ha!

It really feels like we are on a cusp of discovering why some TNBC cells are tougher and more capable of surviving the harsher conditions that occur when cancer metastasises. I do believe that we’re not far away from a new therapy for the devastating disease.

From what I have been reading, it does seem that researchers are working to improve their understanding of the biology of triple-negative breast cancers, how these types of cancers behave and what puts people at risk for them. I guess we are part of that research, to help find out the best ways to use treatments that already exist and to develop new treatments.

What Is Cancer? Do You Actually Know The Answer?

If you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with cancer, you know how overwhelming it can feel. Maybe you’re also getting a lot of confusing information and advice. The more you know, the more confident you’ll feel making decisions. That’s the way I see it.

If you asked me a year ago what cancer is, I would have struggled to give you a satisfactory or close to an accurate explanation. The first 38 years of my life were not significantly impacted by cancer. A friend of a friend, a distant relative or a neighbour a few doors up got cancer. No one in my family was going to get it. Not until we were all old anyways.

What is cancer?

I’ll give it my best shot at explaining it. Our bodies are made up of millions of cells. Inside each cell is an instruction manual called DNA, which has chapters we call genes. Genes tell the cells how to behave; when to make new cells, and when to die.

Cells grow by dividing; one cell divides into two cells, two cells become four cells, and so on. Cancer begins when one cell starts to grow uncontrollably.

Cells divide when their genes tell them too. But if a gene has a mutation, it might instruct a cell to divide when there’s no reason to. The cancer will rely on the blood supply to grow, when they draw blood cells to it, these vessels allow it to travel.

When these cells divide, they make a copy of their DNA in genes, so that each new cell has the same instructions. That copy also divides, and so on, while older or damaged cells are told to die off, making way for new healthy ones.

Occasionally, the DNA instruction manual in a cell can get damaged or mutated. The cause of this mutation could be:

  • A chemical
  • Environmental Carcinogen
  • Hereditary
  • Viruses
  • Smoking
  • Diet?
  • Unknown, lots of unknown

While healthy cells are trained to listen to signals for when to grow, divide and die, cells with mutated DNA sometimes ignore your body’s signals. These rogue cells continue to divide unchecked. This is how cancer starts. In some cases, cancer stays put and is localised. In other cases, the cancer spreads (metastases).

When they are metastatic, tumours consume the body’s resources as they grow, damaging healthy functioning tissues and organs along the way.

So that’s the easy part. Now, what are treatment options? and Why is TNBC such a bitch?