Here’s a shocker—having TNBC plus the BRCA mutation is actually better than not having the mutation. That’s certainly contrary to contemporary wisdom. Here’s the story:

• Of 77 women with triple-negative breast cancer treated at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 15 had BRCA mutations—12 with BRCA1 and three with BRCA2.

• All were treated between 1987 and 2006.

• The five-year relapse-free rate for patients with the mutation was 86.2 percent. For patients without the mutation, it was 51.7 percent.

• The five-year overall survival rate for patients with the mutation was 73.3 percent. For patients without the mutation, it was 52.8 percent.

Many of the patients did not know they had the mutation because they had not done genetic testing.

Ana M. Gonzalez-Angulo, M.D., associate professor in MD Anderson’s Departments of Breast Medical Oncology and Systems Biology presented the findings in advance of the 2010 Breast Cancer Symposium. A news release from M.D. Anderson provides additional perspective.

9 thoughts on “Patients with TNBC Fare Better If They Have the BRCA Mutation

  1. Anonymous says:

    Lauren: Stats can be confusing, especially when dealing with survival. The thing is, when we have cancer, or a loved one has cancer, we only think about death from cancer. Sadly, we can still get hit by a truck. The relapse-free rate refers only to cancer and the overall survival rate refers to all causes of death. Does that make sense? Pat

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi there – I love the info you post on your blog. My Mom had TNBC (Stage1) earlier this year and went through a lumpectomy, 4 rounds of chemo, and radiation – she's doing really well now. My question is why does it say the relapse rate is higher than the survival rate? I'm trying to wrap my head around that, but it's not making much sense.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Pat, Thanks so much for your work. I share Kim's sentiments. But . . . EEK! As a BRCA-neg, I could have done without this news! Anita

  4. Anonymous says:

    According to the release, they all received the same chemo treatment, but that's all the detail there. I'll work to get the actual study ASAP.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I also believe that so many factors could be the cause of this finding, and not just that you are BRCA positive. What type of surgery did each of the woman have? or how about chemo treatments? If one knew they were BRCA positive, they probably had the most aggressive surgery ( bi lateral mastectomy) and the most aggressove chemo. This could be the difference in survival, not the BRCA finding. It will be interesting to see when the study gets published if these were factored into the results.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The thing that all this research tells us is that there are more tools and reasons for hope out there, so go for it and grab all the positive you can.And in my answer to Kim, I talked about a woman who “had a stop breastfeeding.” I hope you realize that was a goofy typo and I had not started talking in jive.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Yea! This is the first time I've ever been glad to be BRCA2 positive!!I'm going to ignore Kim's questions about the study and revel in the good new! (Ain't denial grand?) I do concur with Kim, however, on her appreciation of the knowledge you share with all of us! Thanks again.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Kim:And, as always, thanks for your thoughtful comments. Yes, this is a small study, but the take-away for me is that this disease is so complex that any of the generalizations–especially the dire prognoses–are suspect. And the majority of women, both with and without the mutation survived. Copies of the actual study are not yet available because it has not been presented. At that point, we'll have more of a sense of the parameters.Hope all is well with you.BTW: Looking at your with your baby reminded me of a picture I just got for my book, of a woman who was diagnosed with hormone-negative in the 80s and had a stop breastfeeding her baby boy. The picture was of her and that son, who is now 30.Pat

  9. Anonymous says:

    Pat,As always, I so appreciate the information you provide for us all. Since, I tested negative for the BRCA gene, I don't necessarily like what this study says. However, from reading your past blogs, etc…you have taught me to be a more informed survivor. Questions I would have about this study is they mention nothing about stages and could it be possible that some of the ones who were BRCA positive were diagnosed earlier d/t family hx, etc?? Also, this is really a small number of individuals in the study. The one good thing is that more and more research is being done!!

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