Triple Negative Breast Cancer in African-American Women Has Distinct Difference

Posted in News Release

PHILADELPHIA (April 22, 2015) – What makes triple negative breast cancer more lethal in African American women than White women or women of European descent? A new study reveals specific genetic alterations that appears to impact their prognosis and ultimately survival rates.  The study will be presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2015 in Philadelphia.

Luciane R. Cavalli, PhD, assistant professor at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center explains this new work:

“Triple negative breast cancer is an aggressive subtype of breast cancer where limited treatment is available. These tumors are the leading cause of breast cancer death in African-American women, which are usually diagnosed at an earlier age and in more advanced stages of the disease, when compared with White women. The main objective of our study was to identify molecular markers in these patients that may be associated with their observed disparity in incidence and mortality rates.

“Using genome-wide screening methods, we identified a distinct pattern of DNA copy number (genome regions with gains and losses) and miRNA (small non-coding regions in the genome) expression levels associated significantly with the African American triple negative breast cancer patients, when compared with White TNBC patients. This association was observed irrespectively of their clinical and pathological characteristics, including age, tumor size, stage and grade and presence of axillary lymph node metastasis.

“These initial findings indicate specific genetic alterations, involved in critical cancer related pathways and networks, in the triple negative breast cancer of African American women that might present an impact for their prognosis and treatment, ultimately contributing to an increase in their overall survival rate.”

Cavalli will discuss her poster, “Array-CGH and miRNA expression profiling of triple negative breast cancer in African-American women” on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, from 8:00 a.m. to noon; poster section 3, poster 28.

This research was supported by a grant from the Food and Drug Administration Office of Minority Health via the Georgetown University Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (CERSI; U01FD004319) and by a Susan G. Komen for the Cure® – Post Baccalaureate Training in Disparities Research.

Cavalli reports having no personal financial interests related to the study.

About Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future.  Georgetown Lombardi is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute (grant #P30 CA051008), and the only one in the Washington, DC area.  For more information, go to

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis — or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization, which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.