BALTIMORE, Md. (WUSA) -- It strikes younger women and African-American women in greater numbers, and none of the cancer drugs currently on the market have any effect on it. Fighting Triple Negative breast cancer has been a challenge for cancer researchers, but now there may be an answer.
Evelyn David is about to celebrate another birthday, her 33rd. It's a second chance for Evelyn who was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in 2009.
"I couldn't breathe when she told me I have breast cancer," said Evelyn.
Evelyn was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Triple negative is one of the most difficult strains of breast cancer to treat. It accounts for 15-20% of all breast cancers and is more common in African-American women and young women.
"Triple negative means it's negative or doesn't express 3-things we look for in breast cancer: estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and HER-2," said Dr. Kevin Cullen, Director at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.
Dr. Cullen adds, "Several of those critical drugs including aromatase inhibitors, which was discovered here at the University of Maryland that we have--only work if those factors, those receptors are present on the tumor cells."
Since Evelyn couldn't use any of those critical drugs, her only drug treatment option for her triple negative cancer was chemotherapy.
But in a new clinical trial, researchers at the Greenebaum Center are looking at whether an experimental drug, Etinostate, can help reprogram triple negative tumors to respond to aromatase inhibitors.
Newly diagnosed triple negative patients will receive Entinostat and the aromatase inhibitor Arimidex, once daily for 2-4 weeks before surgery. The tumor will then be analyzed to see if it has shrunk or stopped growing.
Angela Brodie, PH.D who developed aromatase inhibitors, says early trial results are better than expected.
"In other words we converted the hormone resistant tumors into hormone responsive tumors," explains Angela Brodie, Ph.D
"We believe this is a potentially dramatic improvement for women who are facing this very difficult disease," says Dr. Cullen
Researchers hope to register 41 patients at 20-sites including the University of Maryland's Greenebaum Center. And they're especially urging black women to enroll in this trial.
Click here to learn how to enroll for the trial or call the study coordinators at (410) 328-3546 or (410) 328-7856.