A genomic test clarifies the role of the role of the immune system in triple negative breast cancer metastatic risk

Estimating the risk that a patient with breast cancer will develop a metastatic tumor is of fundamental importance for deciding the best treatment strategy in the framework of personalized medicine. This particularly true for treat triple negative breast cancer where no specific drugs are available, so that chemotherapy is the only systemic treatment option.

It would thus be particularly relevant to find molecular signatures able to stratify patients into high and low risk groups using a personalized strategy and avoiding overtreatment of patients and side effects. Two strategies of these kind have been recently proposed. The first one, ARIADNE, pioneered by researchers from the Center of Complexity and Biosystems (CC&B) of the University of Milan and commercialized by the spinoff Complexdata, is based on the calculation risk of metastasis from gene expression data obtained from the biopsy of a patient. The second strategy was proposed by researchers from Canada and is based on the role of the tumor immune microenvironment. In a recent paper published in Scientific Reports, CC&B Researchers have shown that ARIADNE is able to identify high risk patients for which the immunological strategy provides uncertain results.

“We realized that the strength of ARIADNE is that is able to shed light on the risk of metastasis in cancers that are in a grey area, where other methods provide no indications” – explains Caterina La Porta, from the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, who coordinated the research. “This point is particularly important when studying the role of the immune system in cancer, an important focus of current research”. The work of CC&B researchers combined different expertise, from cancer biology to computational and statistical physics. “This work shows once more how combining very different points of view can lead to unexpected discoveries” – concludes Stefano Zapperi, from the Department of Physics “Aldo Pontremoli”, who co-authored the paper.

Read the paper:
Font-Clos, F., Zapperi, S. & La Porta, C.A.M. Classification of triple negative breast cancer by epithelial mesenchymal transition and the tumor immune microenvironment. Sci Rep 12, 9651 (2022).

published on 6/16/2022