Authors: Zong, Yu; Pegram, Mark
Issue: Cancer Drug Resist 2021;4:517-542.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a pathological term used to identify invasive breast cancers that lack expression of estrogen and progesterone receptors and do not have pathologic overexpression of the HER2 receptor or harbor ERBB2 gene amplification. TNBC includes a collection of multiple distinct disease entities based upon genomic, transcriptomic and phenotypic characterization. Despite improved clinical outcomes with the development of novel therapeutics, TNBC still yields the worst prognosis among all clinical subtypes of breast cancer. We will systematically review evidence of the genomic evolution of TNBC, as well as potential mechanisms of disease progression and treatment resistance, defined in part by advances in next-generation DNA sequencing technology (including single cell sequencing), providing a new perspective on treatment strategies, and promise to reveal new potential therapeutic targets. Moreover, we review novel therapies aimed at homologous recombination deficiency, PI3 kinase/AKT/PTEN pathway activation, androgen receptor blockade, immune checkpoint inhibition, as well as antibody-drug conjugates engaging novel cell surface targets, including recent progress in pre-clinical and clinical studies which further validate the role of targeted therapies in TNBC. Despite major advances in treatment for TNBC, including FDA approval of 2 PARP inhibitors for metastatic TNBC, the crossing of the superiority boundary in a phase 3, placebo-controlled study of adjuvant olaparib in early-stage patients with germline BRCA-mutated high-risk HER2-negative early breast cancer, the FDA approval of 2 PD-(L)1 checkpoint antibodies for metastatic TNBC, and the FDA approval of the first antibody drug conjugate for TNBC, significant challenges remain. For example, despite the dawn of immunotherapy in metastatic TNBC, durable responses are limited to a small subset of patients, definitive biomarkers for patient selection are lacking, and the Oncology Drug Advisory Committee to the FDA has recently voted against approval of an anti-PD-1 checkpoint antibody high risk early-stage TNBC in the neoadjuvant setting. Also, despite early positive randomized phase 2 studies of AKT inhibition in metastatic TNBC, a recent phase 3 registration trial failed to validate earlier phase 2 data. Finally, we note that level one evidence for clinical efficacy of androgen receptor blockade in TNBC is still lacking. To meet these and other challenges, we will catalogue the ongoing exponential increase in interest in basic, translational, and clinical research to develop new treatment paradigms for TNBC.