Update on New Advances in Breast Cancer Research

Tigerlily is excited to share new advances in breast cancer research that can benefit our patient community. We hope these updates will help keep you on top of the latest developments, inform your conversations with your doctor, and empower you in your healthcare decisions.

In this article, we share a new discovery, published on Oct. 16 in the journal Breast Cancer Research, that can help doctors determine whether a patient’s metastatic breast cancer is about to reemerge. Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that a certain type of protein, called NR2F1, is the key. This protein helps to “turn off” cancer cells, preventing them from causing harm. If tumor cells contain a large amount of this protein, a doctor can conclude that the cells will soon become disabled, and are unlikely to turn into a full-blown reemergence of the disease. On the other hand, if the protein is found in short supply in the cells, it would signal that the cancer is likely to come back, since there is not enough NR2F1 to prevent its development.

In the most typically observed form of breast cancer, tumor cells spread to the bone marrow; therefore, to test metastasized tumor cells for NR2F1, a doctor would take a bone marrow test. Once the physician has the results, he or she can determine, based on the amount of NR2F1 found in the metastasized cells, whether they are likely to become harmful, or whether they are likely to be turned off by NR2F1 and remain harmless. In the United States, bone marrow tests are not typically given during check-ins with patients, so these findings may provide a clue to physicians as to how to catch a potential reemergence–and provide necessary treatments–early on. Additionally, one type of therapy, known as androgen-deprivation treatment, has shown promise in raising NR2F1 levels, and other drugs are being tested for the same capability. As these treatments become available, doctors would be able to use a bone marrow test to determine whether or not these treatments might help their patients.

In summary, bone marrow tests may help doctors to determine if a patient’s metastatic breast cancer is coming back. By testing for levels of the protein NR2F1, doctors can decide whether patients need to begin treatment or can continue with their regular routine.

Source: The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “New way to determine whether metastatic cancer cells in breast cancer patients are dormant or soon to turn deadly.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181016083535.htm (accessed November 2, 2018).



In this article, we share new findings that offer hope for triple-negative breast cancer. This particular form of cancer is especially hard to treat, but in a new study, featured in the New England Journal of Medicine on Oct. 22, researchers found that administering immunotherapy alongside chemotherapy could lower the likelihood of mortality and metastasis by as much as 40%.

In the study, patients were given the immunotherapy drug atezolizumab on a biweekly basis, while also receiving chemotherapy on a weekly basis. The chemotherapy helps to chip away at the tumor cells’ defenses; the immunotherapy then enables the patients’ natural immune systems to find and destroy the weakened cancer cells.  A similar study also showed promising results with a different immunotherapy drug, Tecentriq, lending support to the other study’s conclusions.

These studies represent an important contribution to the fight against triple negative breast cancer, particularly for young women, who are the most likely to be diagnosed with this type of cancer. The research offers evidence that immunotherapy, in conjunction with chemotherapy, can improve patients’ prognoses.


1)    Queen Mary University of London. “First immunotherapy success for triple-negative breast cancer.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181022122810.htm (accessed November 2, 2018).

2)    LaPook, Jonathan. “Immunotherapy drug showing promise for aggressive type of breast cancer.” CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tecentriq-immunotherpy-triple-negative-breast-cancer-shows-promise/ (accessed November 2, 2018)