Scientists might be closer to identifying a better treatment for triple-negative breast cancer, according to a study presented at the AACR International Conference on Molecular Diagnostics in Cancer Therapeutic Development and reported by HealthDay News.

Triple-negative cancer is a rare but aggressive cancer that most commonly strikes young women and African-American and Hispanic women. The disease’s name refers to cancers that test negative for estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor receptors. These receptors fuel most cancer growth. They are difficult to treat because the usual receptor-targeted therapies fail.  

Instead, triple-negative breast cancers are managed with conventional chemotherapy, said Agnieszka K. Witkiewicz, MD, lead study author and associate professor of pathology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. But now, researchers think they may have uncovered a biological marker that could help develop a more effective treatment for the disease.

For the study, a team analyzed the expression levels of a protein called insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1R, in 97 patients diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. Scientists found that the more IGF-1R patients had the less severe their cancer symptoms and the longer they survived.

The presence of the protein may eventually provide more targeted treatments for triple-negative breast cancer, researchers suggested.

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