Although triple-negative isn’t a good candidate for hormonal therapy, it can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. “In fact, some research has shown that chemotherapy is more effective for triple-negative than for hormone-positive,” Prijatel says.
Knowing that triple-negative breast cancer is a family of diseases, the goal going forward is to understand the genetic makeup of the individual tumors that respond to treatment. “So, a treatment may only work on 5 percent of triple-negative tumors, but if we can identify the 5 percent, then we are making good progress. Also, now that from a genetic point of view these cancers are no longer black boxes, we can also learn from other tumor types. (Our) study, for example, suggests that a drug used for malignant melanoma might be useful in a small subset of the triple-negative cancers. Of course, this would have to be rigorously tested, but it’s an excellent lead already.”
If you have a strong family history and the BRCA mutation, you have several options. The most extreme is a mastectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy to remove ovaries and fallopian tubes. Less extreme and more in our control are exercise and diet modifications that can help reduce the risk of all forms of breast cancer and a batch of other illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“In general, this means at least five servings daily of fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, kale and cauliflower; complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, seeds and nuts; and little or no trans or saturated fats,” Prijatel says. “I would save alcohol for special occasions only — and keep it to one drink at those times.”