Living Healthy: Triple negative breast cancer

Triple negative breast cancer is especially difficult to treat, but a Rhode Island doctor came up with a promising new treatment method.

The American Cancer Society estimates more than 232,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and triple negative breast cancer accounts for around 15 to 20 percent of that, according to Dr. William Sikov.

These negative results means this type of breast cancer doesn’t respond to hormone therapies or therapies that target the her-2 gene which makes this an especially aggressive and hard cancer to treat.

Over 10 years ago, Sikov came up with a different plan of attack, using a long-used chemotherapy agent, carboplatin, in addition to traditional chemo. That combination proved safe and effective.

“We did our own pilot study in Rhode Island was done between 2001 and 2005,” Sikov said. Then they went national, enrolling 443 women at more than 80 sites across the country.

“The cancers that we treated in this study, they were all relatively large or had spread to the lymph nodes under the arm or both,” he said.

But in this study, unlike the pilot study, carboplatin was used or another chemotherapy. The treatments were all done pre-operatively and the study was successful for both drugs.

The side effects weren’t successful, but the side effects of carboplatin were far less concerning.

“On balance we felt that the carboplatin was more promising,” he said.

Overall, it proved effective.

“With the standard treatment, the cancer disappeared 46 percent. With the addition, it went up to 60 percent,” he said.

Sikov said there was another study like this that was done in Germany that yielded similar results. Now he’s focusing on the long term effects.