Rare subtypes of triple negative breast cancer: Current understanding and future directions.

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Rare subtypes of triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) are a heterogenous group of tumors, comprising 5-10% of all TNBCs. Despite accounting for an absolute number of cases in aggregate approaching that of other less common, but well studied solid tumors, rare subtypes of triple-negative disease remain understudied. Low prevalence, diagnostic challenges and overlapping diagnoses have hindered consistent categorization of these breast cancers. Here we review epidemiology, histology and clinical and molecular characteristics of metaplastic, triple-negative lobular, apocrine, adenoid cystic, secretory and high-grade neuroendocrine TNBCs. Medullary pattern invasive ductal carcinoma no special type, which until recently was a considered a distinct subtype, is also discussed. With this background, we review how applying biological principals often applied to study TNBC no special type could improve our understanding of rare TNBCs. These could include the utilization of targeted molecular approaches or disease agnostic tools such as tumor mutational burden or germline mutation-directed treatments. Burgeoning data also suggest that pathologic response to neoadjuvant therapy and circulating tumor DNA have value in understanding rare subtypes of TNBC. Finally, we discuss a framework for advancing disease-specific knowledge in this space. While the conduct of randomized trials in rare TNBC subtypes has been challenging, re-envisioning trial design and technologic tools may offer new opportunities. These include embedding rare TNBC subtypes in umbrella studies of rare tumors, retrospective review of contemporary trials, prospective identification of patients with rare TNBC subtypes entering on clinical trials and querying big data for outcomes of patients with rare breast tumors.






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Thomas, Alexandra, Jorge S Reis-Filho, Charles E Geyer and Hannah Y Wen (2023). Rare subtypes of triple negative breast cancer: Current understanding and future directions. NPJ breast cancer, 9(1). p. 55. 10.1038/s41523-023-00554-x Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/29960.

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Alexandra Thomas

Instructor in the Department of Medicine

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