An estimated 15 to 20 percent of all breast cancer patients are “triple negative.” These unfortunate women lack three crucial treatment targets — the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. Because they lack these targets, most triple negative patients are treated with standard chemotherapy, rather than the preferred targeted drugs. Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) also disproportionately affects younger women, women of African descent and women with mutations in the BRCA1 gene.
The lack of better medicines for TNBC prompted a team of researchers to look for novel drug targets and new ways to disrupt disease-causing pathways. In the process, they found a pair of new weapons, two seasoned drugs that — when tested in mice — produced encouraging results.
“We think we may have found a way to treat resistant breast cancers that currently have no targeted therapy by repurposing two older drugs, metformin and heme, that are already in the marketplace,” said the study’s senior author Marsha Rosner, PhD, the Charles B. Huggins Professor in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research at the University of Chicago.
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