A press release from Tuskegee University shows that researchers from the institution are working on a new means to detect the most aggressive and fatal form of breast cancer available, leading to better-informed treatment decisions and the ability to act earlier. The initial findings were published by Dr. Clayton Yates, a professor of biology and director of the university’s multidisciplinary Center for Biomedical Research, in the current edition of PLOS ONE.
The breakthrough adds a fourth testing marker to the three current methods used to subtype breast cancer.
“Scientifically speaking, our research suggests that the expression of the androgen receptor (the receptor for testosterone), should be added to the current set of prognostic markers — estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 — used to test for classify and determine the aggressiveness of breast cancer,” Yates said.
“The addition of androgen receptor as a fourth biomarker could be game-changing, in not only how we treat all patients with TNBC, but really sets the foundation for this unique subtype called QNBC,” said medical oncologist Dr. Windy Dean-Colomb, who serves as medical director of oncology for St. Patrick CHRISTUS Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
“As with any fight, you have to know your enemy. Imagine going into battle not knowing if you needed a BB gun, a shotgun, or a bazooka,” Yates said. “With this additional testing option, physicians will be able to better define the enemy and develop a more precise treatment plan. This, in turn, promises to be more effective for the patient — not to mention safer and less expensive — in the long run.”
This is especially important when it comes to black women. Black women are far more likely to get diagnosed later in life, and are 40% more likely to die after their initial diagnosis. “Study after study proves that early detection is the key to long-term survival,” Yates said. “Our new testing method shows significant promise for as a prognostic marker for the most aggressive types of breast cancer — African-American women that lack AR expression are diagnosed 10 years earlier than patients with positive AR expression.”
As for the next step following this testing? Yates explains that the current hope is to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration so clinical trials with current breast cancer patients can begin. He also mentions wanting to expand his team’s data collection and analysis globally through his network of international research partners and collaborators. His ultimate goal, though, is to help the test become standardized care for the detection and treatment of breast cancer.