Model finds drug combos to treat triple-negative breast cancer

By Allen Cone

June 20 (UPI) -- A computer program has found a combination of drugs that can treat triple-negative breast cancer.

Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne used genetic and treatment data from TNBC cells in labs and patients around the world. The scientists, who published their findings Tuesday in PLOS Computational Biology, report that they can determine whether this drug combination will benefit certain patients by inputing their genomic and proteomic information to the computer models.


In women with TNBC, three receptors known to fuel most breast cancers are not present: the female hormone estrogen, the female hormone progesterone and protein called human epidermal growth factor, according to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.

Dr. Lan Nguyen from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute said in a press release researchers hope to have this newfound combination -- EGFR and PYK2 -- in clinical trials in two to five years.

He envisions a computer application that clinicians can use to match the best combinations of drugs for individual patients. And he believes a computer model can be adapted for other serious cancers, such as lung and melanoma.


The only treatment now available for TNBC patients is chemotherapy and the survival rate is 12 months if that method doesn't work, according to the Australian Breast Cancer Research.

Researchers have been attempting to use a combination of drugs but they have no reliable methods to predict which ones will work.

The Monash researchers, who worked with colleagues at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, developed the computer model that examines the key signaling network that leads to the growth of triple-negative breast cancers. In turn, the model predicts how drugs reroute the network.

"It's similar to when there's a car accident, and the traffic manages to reroute itself around it without causing gridlock," Nguyen said. "But how exactly these cancer cells find new routes to avoid the drug effect remains largely unknown."

The model ranked various drug combinations as most likely to diminish the cancer.

They tested the drug combination on data from The Cancer Genome Atlas, a database of cancer genes and patient histories run by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, a combination of the brand drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Zejula (niraparib) has shown promising and durable response rates in triple-negative breast cancer patients, according to Phase 1/2 trial data.


Results of the trial, called TOPACIO, were presented earlier this month at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in Chicago.

In addition, Mayo Clinic researchers identified that an FDA drug approved for myelodysplastic syndrome -- decitabine -- may be useful to treat triple-negative breast cancer. The study was published last month in the Journal of Clinical Investigation,

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