Dr. Susan Done, a pathologist and expert in breast cancer at UHN explains how the funding will support her work.
Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive subtype of breast cancer with more deaths occurring within the first 5 years after diagnosis than for other subtypes. Although TNBCs account for approximately 15% of breast cancer diagnoses, because of their aggressive biology they account for approximately 25% of breast cancer-related deaths. To understand why some TNBCs behave more aggressively we have developed advanced molecular methods including epigenomic profiling, gene expression profiling, FISH, and imaging mass cytometry to look at genomic changes in tumour cells and infiltrating immune cells in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue sections. We have recent evidence that the variability or heterogeneity of these cells is related to metastasis. Our studies will lead to a better understanding of the molecular alterations involved in the progression of TNBC, and some of the features that are associated with the shortest survival. It would be very helpful to be able to identify the women with the worst prognosis TNBCs and then they could be targeted for more intensive therapy. Conversely, treatment could be reduced in women found to have less aggressive forms of TNBC which would reduce both side effects and costs. Ultimately, we believe this work will result in promising new therapeutic targets.