The Center for Breast Surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center is conducting a large study meant to identify risk factors associated with triple negative breast cancer, one of the most difficult types of cancer to treat. The Center is currently looking for Hispanic women who survived the disease to enroll in the study, in order to compare genetic resemblances of ethnic groups. The national clinical trial, which is being led by Roshni Rao, Director of the George N. Peters, M.D., Center for Breast Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, will start by collecting DNA samples from survivors of triple negative breast cancer, in order to acknowledge the risks related to the disease. “Triple negative breast cancer leads to a disproportionate number of breast cancer deaths, particularly among young breast cancer patients,” Dr. Rao, an associate professor of surgery and a member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, explained in a UT Southwestern press release. “This study will help us determine if there is a pattern that predicts triple negative breast cancer. When we can identify risk factors, women at high risk can be screened earlier and more frequently.”
As a way of understanding the genetic similarities between ethnic groups, the researchers are searching for Hispanic women who survived the disease, since the number of Caucasian and African-American patient needed was already reached. However, researchers are concerned that triple negative breast cancer is related to the BRCA gene, which might affect women of any ethnic group, but appears to affect a higher percentage of African-American women.
The disease represents 15 percent of all breast cancers in Hispanic women, 11 percent in whites, 23 percent in blacks, and 10 percent in Asian/Pacific Islanders, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“The purpose of this study is to identify a mitochondrial DNA pattern that predisposes women to this aggressive type of breast cancer,” Rao added. Enrolling in the study includes no costs, as it is supported by the Young Texans Against Cancer, and it only entails a one-time Q-tip swab of tissue inside the mouth. Women who are willing to be part of this trial can be at any stage of treatment or survival and must contact the UT Southwestern’s research coordinator at 214-648-4981.
Rao has been focused on research on the ethnic differences regarding breast cancer, as well as breast cancer in American ethnic populations, surgical treatment for metastatic breast cancer and treatment of locally advanced breast cancer. UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center is currently the only National Cancer Institute in North Texas which has been dedicated to develop a treatment for the disease, as well as finding a way to improve health care and patients’ life quality.
More than 230,000 women are diagnosed each year with cancer in the United States alone, according to the American Cancer Society. Between 10 and 20 percent of them are basal-like breast cancers, also known as triple negative, a particular subtype with few hopes of survival.