Triple-negative breast cancers (TNBCs) are a diverse and heterogeneous group of tumors that by definition lack estrogen and progesterone receptors and amplification of the HER2 gene. The majority of the tumors classified as TNBCs are highly malignant, and only a subgroup responds to conventional chemotherapy with a favorable prognosis. Results from decades of research have identified important molecular characteristics that can subdivide this group of breast cancers further. High-throughput molecular analyses including sequencing, pathway analyses, and integrated analyses of alterations at the genomic and transcriptomic levels have improved our understanding of the molecular alterations involved in tumor development and progression. How this knowledge should be used for rational selection of therapy is a challenging task and the subject of numerous ongoing research programs. This review summarizes the current knowledge on the clinical characteristics and molecular alterations of TNBCs. Currently used conventional therapeutic strategies and targeted therapy studies are discussed, with references to recently published results on the molecular characterization of TNBCs.
Copyright © 2013 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.