Epidemiology, biology, and treatment of triple-negative breast cancer in women of African ancestry

Lancet Oncol. 2014 Dec;15(13):e625-e634. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(14)70364-X. Epub 2014 Nov 24.


Breast cancer incidence is increasing worldwide, and breast cancer-related mortality is highest in women of African ancestry, who are more likely to have basal-like or triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) than are women of European ancestry. Identification of cultural, epidemiological, and genetic risk factors that predispose women of African ancestry to TNBC is an active area of research. Despite the aggressive behaviour of TNBC, achievement of a pathological complete response with chemotherapy is associated with good long-term survival outcomes, and sensitivity to chemotherapy does not seem to differ according to ethnic origin. Discovery of the molecular signalling molecules that define TNBC heterogeneity has led to the development of targeted agents such as inhibitors of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 and mTOR and immunomodulatory drugs that are in the early stages of clinical testing. First, we summarise the existing published work on the differences reported on the epidemiology, biology, and response to systemic treatment of TNBC between women of African ancestry and white women, and identify some gaps in knowledge. Second, we review the opportunities for development of new therapeutic agents in view of the potential high clinical relevance for patients with TNBC irrespective of race or ethnic origin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • United States / epidemiology