Triple-negative Breast Carcinoma: Morphologic and Molecular Subtypes

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Breast carcinoma is a heterogenous disease. Carcinomas lacking expression of estrogen, progesterone, and HER2/neu receptors by immunohistochemistry and Her2 amplification are designated as triple negative. This group of carcinomas comprises approximately 10% to 20% of all breast carcinomas and is characterized by an aggressive nature with shorter rates of disease-free and overall survival. This aggressive behavior is further compounded by the lack of available targeted therapies. Patients receive cytoxic chemotherapy regimens. Although tumors are initially sensitive to this therapy, drugs are toxic and ineffective in maintaining long-term response thereby providing limited benefit. Much effort is being spent on this group of cancers for the identification of appropriate molecular targets, an effort that is proving challenging due to the presence of marked heterogeneity, both at the morphologic and molecular levels. An understanding of the advances in this field is crucial for developing targeted therapies and tailored patient management protocols. This report summarizes the pathologic subtypes of breast cancer that are commonly of a triple-negative immunophenotype and recent molecular advances in this field.

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