Ask the Doctor: What is Triple Negative Breast Cancer? How is it Treated?

Posted on Apr 10, 2013 in Research

Q: What is triple negative breast cancer? How is it treated?

A: A triple negative breast cancer is not responsive to therapies targeted at estrogen, progesterone, or the cell growth marker Her-2-neu. The cancer type arises from basal cells that form the basal lining of breast cells. This type of breast cancer tends to have a higher risk of recurrence, when compared to triple positive breast cancer.

Triple negative breast cancer is treated conventionally with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Common chemotherapy drugs include Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxotere, or Taxol. Hormone-targeted therapies and the drug Herceptin are not useful.

Natural therapies that target triple negative breast cancer include curcumin, boswellia, blueberries, resveratrolmelatonin, fish oil, green tea, and soy genistein. Several of these therapies can interact with chemotherapy or surgical anesthesia, so do talk with your naturopathic oncologist before taking anything.

Triple negative breast cancer has a higher risk of spreading (metastasis) to the brain and lungs, so I recommend protective measures to my newly diagnosed patients. For example, there are natural therapies that can cross the blood-brain barrier and reduce the risk of brain metastasis. Since most chemotherapies do not enter the brain, the natural therapies are a very valuable tool.

When triple negative breast cancer recurs, it tends to do so in the first 5 years after diagnosis. By contrast, triple positive breast cancer tends to recur after 10 years. So, with my patients with triple negative breast cancer, I recommend a through integrative protocol initially, and then we can taper it after 5 years. By contrast, triple positive breast cancer patients benefit from a simpler protocol that they will continue for 10-20 years.