Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: NPJ breast cancer


The non-receptor tyrosine kinase, PTK6/BRK, is highly expressed in multiple tumor types, including prostate, ovarian, and breast cancers, and regulates oncogenic phenotypes such as proliferation, migration, and survival. PTK6 inhibition also overcomes targeted therapy resistance of HER2+ breast cancer. Although PTK6 is highly expressed in ER+ Luminal breast cancers, the role of PTK6 in this subtype has not been elucidated. In this study, we investigated the functions of PTK6 in ER+ Luminal breast cancer cells, including those that are relatively resistant to estrogen deprivation or targeted endocrine therapies used in the treatment of ER+ cancers. Enhanced expression of PTK6 in ER+ breast cancer cells enhances growth of ER+ breast cancer cells, including tamoxifen-treated cells. Downregulation of PTK6 in ER+ breast cancer cells, including those resistant to tamoxifen, fulvestrant, and estrogen deprivation, induces apoptosis, as evidenced by increased levels of cleaved PARP, and an increase in the AnnexinV+ population. PTK6 downregulation impairs growth of these cells in 3D Matrigel™ cultures, and virtually abrogates primary tumor growth of both tamoxifen-sensitive and resistant MCF-7 xenografts. Finally, we show that p38 MAPK activation is critical for PTK6 downregulation-induced apoptosis, a mechanism that we previously reported for survival of HER2+ breast cancer cells, highlighting conserved mechanisms of survival regulation by PTK6 across breast cancer subtypes. In conclusion, our studies elucidate critical functions of PTK6 in ER+ Luminal breast cancers and support PTK6 as an attractive therapeutic target for ER+ breast cancers.

Concepts: Gene expression, Cancer, Breast cancer, Metastasis, Oncology, Chemotherapy, Tumor, BRCA2


The Recurrence Score® is increasingly used in node-positive ER+ HER2-negative breast cancer. This retrospective analysis of a prospectively designed registry evaluated treatments/outcomes in node-positive breast cancer patients who were Recurrence Score-tested through Clalit Health Services from 1/2006 through 12/2011 (N = 709). Medical records were reviewed to verify treatments/recurrences/survival. Median follow-up, 5.9 years; median age, 62 years; 53.9% grade 2; 69.8% tumors ≤ 2 cm; 84.5% invasive ductal carcinoma; 42.0% N1mi, and 37.2%/15.5%/5.2% with ½/3 positive nodes; 53.4% Recurrence Score < 18, 36.4% Recurrence Score 18-30, and 10.2% Recurrence Score ≥ 31. Overall, 26.9% received adjuvant chemotherapy: 7.1%, 39.5%, and 86.1% in the Recurrence Score < 18, 18-30, and ≥ 31 group, respectively. The 5-year Kaplan-Meier estimates for distant recurrence were 3.2%, 6.3%, and 16.9% for these respective groups and the corresponding 5-year breast cancer death estimates were 0.5%, 3.4%, and 5.7%. In Recurrence Score < 18 patients, 5-year distant-recurrence rates for N1mi/1 positive node/2-3 positive nodes were 1.2%/4.4%/5.4%. As patients were not randomized to treatment and treatment decision is heavily influenced by Recurrence Score, analysis of 5-year distant recurrence by chemotherapy use was exploratory and should be interpreted cautiously: In Recurrence Score < 18, recurrence rate was 7.7% in chemotherapy-treated (n = 27) and 2.9% in chemotherapy-untreated patients (n = 352); P = 0.245. In Recurrence Score 18-30, recurrence rate in chemotherapy-treated patients (n = 102) was significantly lower than in untreated patients (n = 156) (1.0% vs. 9.7% P = 0.019); in Recurrence Score ≤ 25 (the RxPONDER study cutoff), recurrence rate was 2.3% in chemotherapy-treated (n = 89) and 4.4% in chemotherapy-untreated patients (n = 488); P = 0.521. In conclusion, our findings support using endocrine therapy alone in ER+ HER2-negative breast cancer patients with micrometastases/1-3 positive nodes and Recurrence Score < 18.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Metastasis, Oncology, Chemotherapy, Mammary ductal carcinoma, Chemotherapy regimens, HER2/neu


The 21-gene Recurrence Score® (RS) assay is a validated prognostic/predictive tool in ER + early-stage breast cancer. However, clinical outcome data from prospective studies in RS ≥ 11 patients are lacking, as are relevant real-life clinical practice data. In this retrospective analysis of a prospectively designed registry, we evaluated treatments/clinical outcomes in patients undergoing RS-testing through Clalit Health Services. The analysis included N0 ER + HER2-negative breast cancer patients who were RS-tested from 1/2006 through 12/2010. Medical records were reviewed to verify treatments/recurrences/survival. The cohort included 1801 patients (median follow-up, 6.2 years). Median age was 60 years, 50.4% were grade 2 and 81.1% had invasive ductal carcinoma; 48.9% had RS < 18, 40.7% RS 18-30, and 10.4% RS ≥ 31, with chemotherapy use of 1.4, 23.7, and 87.2%, respectively. The 5-year Kaplan-Meier estimates for distant recurrence were 0.8, 3.0, and 8.6%, for patients with RS < 18, RS 18-30 and RS ≥ 31, respectively; the corresponding 5-year Kaplan-Meier estimates for breast cancer death were 0.0, 0.9, and 6.2%. Chemotherapy-untreated patients with RS < 11 (n = 304) and 11-25 (n = 1037) (TAILORx categorization) had 5-year Kaplan-Meier estimates for distant recurrence risk/breast cancer death of 1.0%/0.0% and 1.3%/0.4%, respectively. Our results extend those of the prospective TAILORx trial: the 5-year Kaplan-Meier estimates for distant recurrence and breast cancer death rate for the RS < 18 patients were very low supporting the use of endocrine therapy alone. Furthermore, in chemotherapy-untreated patients with RS 11-25 (where TAILORx patients were randomized to chemoendocrine or endocrine therapy alone), 5-year distant recurrence rates were also very low, suggesting that chemotherapy would not have conferred clinically meaningful benefit.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Metastasis, Oncology, Chemotherapy, Mammary ductal carcinoma, Chemotherapy regimens, Clinical death


Germline variants that affect the expression or function of proteins contribute to phenotypic variation in humans and likely determine individual characteristics and susceptibility to diseases including cancer. A number of high penetrance germline variants that increase cancer risk have been identified and studied, but germline functional polymorphisms are not typically considered in the context of cancer biology, where the focus is primarily on somatic mutations. Yet, there is evidence from familial cancers indicating that specific cancer subtypes tend to arise in carriers of high-risk germline variants (e.g., triple negative breast cancers in mutated BRCA carriers), which suggests that pre-existing germline variants may determine which complementary somatic driver mutations are needed to drive tumorigenesis. Recent genome sequencing studies of large breast cancer cohorts reported only a handful of highly recurrent driver mutations, suggesting that different oncogenic events drive individual cancers. Here, we propose that germline polymorphisms can function as oncogenic modifiers, or co-oncogenes, and these determine what complementary subsequent somatic events are required for full malignant transformation. Therefore, we propose that germline aberrations should be considered together with somatic mutations to determine what genes drive cancer and how they may be targeted.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cancer, Breast cancer, Mutation, Oncology, Evolution, BRCA2


Several studies have demonstrated the feasibility of molecular screening of tumour samples for matching patients with cancer to targeted therapies. However, most of them have been carried out at institutional or national level. Herein, we report on the pilot phase of AURORA (NCT02102165), a European multinational collaborative molecular screening initiative for advanced breast cancer patients. Forty-one patients were prospectively enroled at four participating centres across Europe. Metastatic tumours were biopsied and profiled using an Ion Torrent sequencing platform at a central facility. Sequencing results were obtained for 63% of the patients in real-time with variable turnaround time stemming from delays between patient consent and biopsy. At least one clinically actionable mutation was identified in 73% of patients. We used the Illumina sequencing technology for orthogonal validation and achieved an average of 66% concordance of substitution calls per patient. Additionally, copy number aberrations inferred from the Ion Torrent sequencing were compared to single nucleotide polymorphism arrays and found to be 59% concordant on average. Although this study demonstrates that powerful next generation genomic techniques are logistically ready for international molecular screening programs in routine clinical settings, technical challenges remain to be addressed in order to ensure the accuracy and clinical utility of the genomic data.

Concepts: DNA, Bioinformatics, Cancer, Breast cancer, Metastasis, Oncology, Molecular biology, SNP array


Next-generation sequencing to detect circulating tumor DNA is a minimally invasive method for tumor genotyping and monitoring therapeutic response. The majority of studies have focused on detecting circulating tumor DNA from patients with metastatic disease. Herein, we tested whether circulating tumor DNA could be used as a biomarker to predict relapse in triple-negative breast cancer patients with residual disease after neoadjuvant chemotherapy. In this study, we analyzed samples from 38 early-stage triple-negative breast cancer patients with matched tumor, blood, and plasma. Extracted DNA underwent library preparation and amplification using the Oncomine Research Panel consisting of 134 cancer genes, followed by high-coverage sequencing and bioinformatics. We detected high-quality somatic mutations from primary tumors in 33 of 38 patients. TP53 mutations were the most prevalent (82%) followed by PIK3CA (16%). Of the 33 patients who had a mutation identified in their primary tumor, we were able to detect circulating tumor DNA mutations in the plasma of four patients (three TP53 mutations, one AKT1 mutation, one CDKN2A mutation). All four patients had recurrence of their disease (100% specificity), but sensitivity was limited to detecting only 4 of 13 patients who clinically relapsed (31% sensitivity). Notably, all four patients had a rapid recurrence (0.3, 4.0, 5.3, and 8.9 months). Patients with detectable circulating tumor DNA had an inferior disease free survival (p < 0.0001; median disease-free survival: 4.6 mos. vs. not reached; hazard ratio = 12.6, 95% confidence interval: 3.06-52.2). Our study shows that next-generation circulating tumor DNA sequencing of triple-negative breast cancer patients with residual disease after neoadjuvant chemotherapy can predict recurrence with high specificity, but moderate sensitivity. For those patients where circulating tumor DNA is detected, recurrence is rapid.

Concepts: DNA, Cancer, Disease, Breast cancer, Metastasis, Mutation, Oncology, Chemotherapy


Genetic searches for tumor suppressors have recently linked small nucleolar RNA misregulations with tumorigenesis. In addition to their classically defined functions, several small nucleolar RNAs are now known to be processed into short microRNA-like fragments called small nucleolar RNA-derived RNAs. To determine if any small nucleolar RNA-derived RNAs contribute to breast malignancy, we recently performed a RNA-seq-based comparison of the small nucleolar RNA-derived RNAs of two breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231) and identified small nucleolar RNA-derived RNAs derived from 13 small nucleolar RNAs overexpressed in MDA-MB-231s. Importantly, we find that inhibiting the most differentially expressed of these small nucleolar RNA-derived RNAs (sdRNA-93) in MDA-MB-231 cells results primarily in a loss of invasiveness, whereas increased sdRNA-93 expression in either cell line conversely results in strikingly enhanced invasion. Excitingly, we recently determined sdRNA-93 expressions in small RNA-seq data corresponding to 116 patient tumors and normal breast controls, and while we find little sdRNA-93 expression in any of the controls and only sporadic expression in most subtypes, we find robust expression of sdRNA-93 in 92.8% of Luminal B Her2+tumors. Of note, our analyses also indicate that at least one of sdRNA-93’s endogenous roles is to regulate the expression of Pipox, a sarcosine metabolism-related protein whose expression significantly correlates with distinct molecular subtypes of breast cancer. We find sdRNA-93 can regulate the Pipox 3'UTR via standard reporter assays and that manipulating endogenous sdRNA-93 levels inversely correlates with altered Pipox expression. In summary, our results strongly indicate that sdRNA-93 expression actively contributes to the malignant phenotype of breast cancer through participating in microRNA-like regulation.

Concepts: Gene, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Cancer, Breast cancer, Oncology, RNA, Cell culture


The 21-gene Recurrence Score (RS) assay is prognostic and predictive of adjuvant chemotherapy benefit in node positive (N+) breast cancer (BC). We sought to evaluate use patterns of RS assay in N+, ER+/HER2- BC and the impact of RS on recommendations for adjuvant chemotherapy. Patients with T1-T4c,N1mi-N3, ER+/HER2- BC diagnosed 2010-2013 in the National Cancer Database were analyzed. Multivariable logistic regression assessed factors influencing RS testing and chemotherapy recommendations based on RS. Among 72,897 patients, RS was obtained in 20.6%, increasing from 15.0% in 2010 to 24.5% in 2013 (p < 0.001). RS testing was most common in N1mi (43.7%) followed by N1 (22.1%) and rare in N2/N3 (3.3%). Of the 12,536 with quantitative RS results, 61.1% were low RS, 32.3% intermediate RS and 6.6% high RS. Chemotherapy was recommended less frequently in patients with RS testing (50.4%) vs. those not tested (81.0%, p < 0.001). In N1mi/N1 patients, chemotherapy recommendation varied by RS; however, in N2/N3 patients, chemotherapy was recommended in the majority (70.9-87.5%) regardless of RS. Most patients (>85%) with RS ≥ 26 were recommended chemotherapy regardless of nodal stage. For patients with RS < 26, chemotherapy recommendations increased with higher N and T stage, grade, and younger age (p < 0.001). Histology was not associated with chemotherapy recommendation in any RS subset. The RS assay is frequently and increasingly being used for decision making in node positive ER+/HER2- breast cancer patients and its use is associated with lower rates of adjuvant chemotherapy.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Metastasis, Oncology, Cancer staging, Chemotherapy, Pleural effusion, Chemotherapy regimens


There is a striking racial and ethnic disparity in incidence and mortality of cancer yet minorities remain markedly underrepresented in clinical trials. This pilot study set out to determine the impact of a 15-min culturally tailored educational video on three outcomes relating to clinical trials: likely participation, attitudes (assessed based on six barriers), and actual enrollment. Breast cancer patients with Stage I-III, if diagnosed within previous 6 months, or metastatic disease who self-identified as black or African American were invited to participate. The primary outcome measure was the decision to participate in a therapeutic clinical trial after the intervention. Patients' intention to enroll on a therapeutic clinical trial and the change in attitudes toward clinical trials were measured by the previously developed Attitudes and Intention to Enroll in Therapeutic Clinical Trials (AIET) questionnaire. Of the 200 patients that participated, 39 (19.5%) patients signed consent to participate in a therapeutic clinical trial; 27 (13.5%) patients enrolled, resulting in a 7.5% increase from our baseline comparison of 6% clinical trial enrollment rate in black cancer patients (p < .001). Pre-test versus post-test assessment demonstrated the proportion of patients expressing likelihood to enroll in a therapeutic trial following the intervention increased by 14% (p < .001). Among 31 AIET items, 25 (81%) showed statistically significant and positive change post-intervention. The findings suggest the promising utility of a culturally tailored video intervention for improving black patients' attitudes regarding clinical trial participation and resultant enrollment. Future efforts should continue to target facilitators of population-specific recruitment, enrollment, and retention in therapeutic and non-therapeutic clinical trials.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Cancer, Breast cancer, Metastasis, Informed consent, The Canon of Medicine,


This study was undertaken to determine the feasibility of enrolling breast cancer patients on a single-agent-targeted therapy trial before neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Specifically, we evaluated talazoparib in patients harboring a deleterious BRCA mutation (BRCA+). Patients with a germline BRCA mutation and ≥1 cm, HER2-negative primary tumors were eligible. Study participants underwent a pretreatment biopsy, 2 months of talazoparib, off-study core biopsy, anthracycline, and taxane-based chemotherapy ± carboplatin, followed by surgery. Volumetric changes in tumor size were determined by ultrasound at 1 and 2 months of therapy. Success was defined as 20 patients accrued within 2 years and <33% experienced a grade 4 toxicity. The study was stopped early after 13 patients (BRCA1 + n = 10; BRCA2 + n = 3) were accrued within 8 months with no grade 4 toxicities and only one patient requiring dose reduction due to grade 3 neutropenia. The median age was 40 years (range 25-55) and clinical stage included I (n = 2), II (n = 9), and III (n = 2). Most tumors (n = 9) were hormone receptor-negative, and one of these was metaplastic. Decreases in tumor volume occurred in all patients following 2 months of talazoparib; the median was 88% (range 30-98%). Common toxicities were neutropenia, anemia, thrombocytopenia, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Single-agent-targeted therapy trials are feasible in BRCA+ patients. Given the rapid rate of accrual, profound response and favorable toxicity profile, the feasibility study was modified into a phase II study to determine pathologic complete response rates after 4-6 months of single-agent talazoparib.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Oncology, Cancer staging, Pathology, Chemotherapy, BRCA2, BRCA1