Researchers discovered a biomarker that may indicate which patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) may respond to less aggressive chemotherapy, a study published in Scientific Reports has shown.1

In a study conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), [location], researchers found that patients with triple-negative breast cancer whose tumors express the prolactin receptor may have better prognosis than those whose TNBC tumors do not express this receptor.

Triple-negative breast cancers are estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative, and HER2-negative tumors, and therefore, have a poor response to many targeted therapies. These tumors are characterized by poor histologic characteristics, high rate of recurrence, and poor outcomes for patients.

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Because the diverse behavior of these tumors in patients is not fully understood, researchers sought a better understanding of the molecular pathways involved in a quest to better stratify patients with triple-negative breast cancer for personalized therapy and improved prognosis.

Using a database of 580 women with TNBC, researchers at RI-MUHC found that women whose tumors expressed the prolactin receptor had prolonged survival. Furthermore, the prolactin hormone decreased the cancer cells ability to divide and form new cells thereby lowering the aggressiveness of the disease.

In animal models, the researchers also found that tumors without prolactin receptors were more aggressive, proliferative, and invasive compared with tumors that expressed prolactin.

Based upon their findings, the researchers suggest that screening for the prolactin receptor could identify patients with triple-negative breast cancer who may have better prognosis and survival with prolactin treatment, alone or in combination with less aggressive chemotherapy.


1. López-Ozuna VM, Hachim IY, Hachim MY, Lebrun JJ, Ali S. Prolactin pro-differentiation pathway in triple negative breast cancer: impact on prognosis and potential therapy. Sci Rep. 2016 Aug 2. doi:10.1038/srep30934. [Epub ahead of print]