What is triple-negative breast cancer?

While breast cancer is often thought of as a singular diagnosis, it is actually an umbrella term that encompasses several subtypes of the disease — many of which have been discovered in recent years due to continual advancement in the oncology research space. Traditionally, breast cancers are grouped into subtypes according to the Tumor, Nodes, and Metastasis system of staging breast cancer, the reproductive status of the patient, and the types of biological markers that are found in the cancer cells.

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an example of one of these subtypes, impacting about 10% of those with a breast cancer diagnosis. Below, we’ll share some key details about TNBC, including what differentiates it and what treatment options are available for those that have been diagnosed.

What is triple-negative breast cancer?

Breast cancer is deemed triple-negative when the cancer cells test negative for estrogen and progesterone receptors and do not make a sufficient amount of the protein HER2. TNBC is most often found in women under the age of 40, Black women, and women who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. It tends to grow and spread faster, respond to fewer treatments, recur more often, and have a worse prognosis than other types of breast cancer.

How is triple-negative breast cancer treated?

While some forms of breast cancer can be treated via hormone therapy, the lack of estrogen and progesterone receptors associated with TNBC means that this type of treatment is not an option. After patients are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, their doctor will typically recommend that they begin treatment with a lumpectomy or mastectomy to remove the infected tissue and surrounding lymph nodes from the breast. From there, individuals will typically undergo radiation and/or chemotherapy depending on how quickly the cancer was detected.

Clinical trials for triple-negative breast cancer

Although triple-negative breast cancer has fewer treatment options than other types of breast cancer, patients have access to a variety of clinical trials that may be impactful. Participating in a clinical trial can provide access to potential new treatment options before they are available to the public, give patients access to medical specialists for their condition, and have a direct impact on patients, both today and tomorrow. Advancements in cancer treatment can only happen when people enroll in clinical trials — use the button below to get started.