Seeking to improve treatments for patients with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).
Laboratory studies are conducted to define a "BRCA-ness" profile in triple negative breast cancer to identify TNBC patients most likely to respond to BRCA-directed therapies.
These studies may guide the selection of patients for specific therapies and improve outcomes for patients with this aggressive form of breast cancer.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) accounts for 15 percent of all breast cancers and is associated with poor patient outcomes compared to other breast cancer subtypes. TNBC is defined by the absence of three common therapeutic breast cancer markers (estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and HER2 protein). Due to lack of specific targets, chemotherapy is the standard treatment for patients with TNBC.
Several molecular similarities have been noted between TNBC and cancers that arise in patients with inherited mutations in BRCA1, a gene that codes for proteins that are vital in repairing damaged DNA. While only 10 to 20 percent of TNBC patients have a germline BRCA mutation, it is believed that 50 to 70 percent of patients with TNBC harbor BRCAness. Diverse types of tumor changes can lead to BRCAness and a single test is unlikely to detect all changes.
To address this important issue Dr. Sharma's Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO research supported by BCRF will examine BRCAness as a marker of response to standard chemotherapy in TNBC patients treated on a large adjuvant trial (SWOG 9313). Knowledge gained from this work will have a tremendous impact in guiding future personalized clinical research involving DNA damaging agents in patients with TNBC.
Dr. Priyanka Sharma is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She joined the department of Internal Medicine as a breast oncologist in 2005 after completing Internal Medicine residency, Chief Residency and Hematology-Oncology fellowship at the University of Kansas. Dr. Sharma is actively involved in both clinical and translational research. Improving treatment outcomes for aggressive breast cancer subtypes like triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is her main research focus. She was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor in 2012. She is the principal investigator of multiple investigator initiated phase I/II clinical trials of novel targeted agents in TNBC. She heads a regional multisite prospective TNBC registry which has enrolled over 500 participants from the Kansas City Metropolitan area. Dr. Sharma was the recipient of an institutional career development grant from the University of Kansas Department of Internal Medicine and has received pilot grants from NIH-CTSA and University of Kansas Cancer Center for clinical and translational research in TNBC. Dr. Sharma serves as the co-chair of the University of Kansas Cancer Center’s Breast Cancer Disease Working Group. She also serves on the institutional review board and the internal advisory board to KU Cancer Center Biostatistics and Informatics Shared Resource. She is a member of the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) Breast Committee and Breast Translational Medicine Subcommittee and is also the principal investigator for an ongoing SWOG correlative science proposal that will evaluate prognostic value of BRCAness phenotype in TNBC. Dr. Sharma regularly presents her research at national and international meetings and has published over a dozen manuscripts.