Abstract: "Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBCs) is the most clinically aggressive breast cancer subtype presented with patients at an early age, more regional metastasis and higher tumor grade and shows early recurrences and poor survival outcome. Poor understanding of this subtype and the lack of targeted therapy make it difficult to manage. A recent meta-analysis revealed that the incidence of TNBC in India is three times higher compared to reported Western cohorts. Therefore, a better understanding of this disease and the factors promoting the disease progression and long-term survival is needed for an Indian cohort. To address this, we look at an in-depth understanding of cellular and molecular profiles in breast cancer patients from a Pune Biobank (Busheri et al, 2021).
FFPE tissue samples derived from primary untreated tissue with known molecular subtypes, lateral clinical, pathological, treatment and follow-up data were included in this study. The tumor microenvironment is a diverse milieu of stromal cells, lymphocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, and tumor cells. Interactions among these cells affect the disease progression and patient outcomes. For cellular profiling, we focus on tumor immune microenvironment (TIME), including total tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) proportion, the spatial distribution of TILs, and cellular subtypes. Our analysis revealed a unique observation that TNBC patients had a higher proportion of patients with intra-tumoral TILs, and is it is in fact has important clinical associations within our cohort. To identify the immune cell subtypes in TME, we used cutting-edge technologies such as multiplexed immunohistochemistry and multispectral imaging and analysis. Complex TME milieu in relation to tumors in chemotherapy-treated patients will help us understand what drives the response within these patients.
To further our understanding of TNBC in India, we focused on the molecular profile of TNBC with known therapeutic potential in other cancers, EGFR and AR. These markers were used to prognosticate TNBC and identify a unique expression profile specific to India. In an attempt to truly take back our observations from the bench-to-bedside, we propose a multi-centric phase 3 clinical trial based on our observation in this study."
About the speaker: Pooja is a Ph.D. scholar at Ashoka University and affiliated to CTCR, Pune since 2018. She is currently working on her thesis project under the guidance of Prof LS Shashidhara and Dr Madhura Kulkarni. She obtained her master’s degree in biotechnology, post which she was trained in Drosophila genetics, using flies as a tumor model to identify putative tumor suppressor genes (TSGs). Moving to translational cancer field, her focus has been in uncovering the unique clinical and molecular characteristics of Indian triple-negative breast cancers for better disease management. She strongly believes the fact that science cannot be pursued alone and that a solid teamwork and interdisciplinary approach is needed to tackle the current issues in cancer management. Outside lab, she indulges in baking desserts with an elaborate recipe, stretch her legs with recreational badminton and swimming, travelling to serene mountains, and spending time with her notorious house cat.