24 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R

quick takes

UAB RESEARCHERS have discovered that a new combination of two existing cancer

drugs can kill triple-negative breast cancer

cells. A highly aggressive subtype of breast

cancer, triple-negative breast cancer does

not express receptors for estrogen, proges-

terone or human epidermal growth factor.

Because most cancer drugs target these

receptors, triple-negative breast cancer is

difficult to treat.

The novel drug combination pairs lapa-

tinib a chemotherapy drug from a class

known as kinase inhibitors with veliparib,

a type of drug known as a PARP inhibitor.

Both lapatinib and veliparib have individu-

ally been shown to be safe and well toler-

ated in breast cancer patients. Lapatinib

is approved for use in human epithelial

growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive

breast cancers, but this is the first time it

has been studied in combination with veli-

parib, both in triple-negative breast cancer

cells and in mouse models.

The UAB findings show that the

lapatinib-veliparib combination produces

persistent damage in the DNA of triple-

negative breast cancer cells, leading to cell

death, says Shih-Hsin (Eddy) Yang, M.D.,

Ph.D., an associate scientist in the experi-

mental therapeutics program at the UAB

Comprehensive Cancer Center.

An expert in DNA repair in cancer cells,

Dr. Yang has been studying PARP inhibitors

in relation to multiple cancer types for sev-

eral years. If you hit triple-negative cancer

cells with lapatinib, among other things, it

breaks down the ability of the cell to repair

its DNA, he explains. By utilizing the

PARP inhibitor on top of that, the cancer

cell continues to accumulate damage to its

DNA, causing the cell to die. This potent

combination causes an interaction that

is lethal to triple-negative breast cancer


Adds Dr. Yang, The intriguing results

of our study point not only to the broader

utility of PARP inhibitors but also to a

potential new combined therapy for triple-

negative breast cancer patients. We are

hoping that this treatment plan can even-

tually improve cure rates while reducing

treatment-related side effects.

UAB Study Reveals Novel Treatment Option for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

TWO UAB RESEARCHERS have received grants to further their research in pediat- ric cancer. Gregory Friedman, M.D., an assistant professor in the UAB Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, has been awarded a St. Baldrick s Foundation Scholar grant of $330,000 for a period of three years to conduct research on medulloblastoma, the most common malig- nant brain tumor found in children.

Dr. Friedman, an associate scientist at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, studies the ability of clinically ready viruses, such as the genetically altered herpes simplex virus, to kill brain tumor-initiating cells in difficult-to-treat medulloblastomas. His research team hopes to provide the founda- tion for future pediatric clinical trials.

Frederick Goldman, M.D., a professor in the UAB Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, has been awarded a $116,000 grant over two years by the Diamond Blackfan Anemia Foundation in support of his research to find a cure for Diamond- Blackfan anemia (DBA), a rare, childhood

bone marrow-failure syndrome. Dr. Goldman and research

partner Tim Townes, Ph.D., chair-

man of the UAB Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, plan to correct the genetic

defect in skin cells obtained from patients

with DBA, then convert the skin cells into hemato-

poietic stem cells. Drs. Goldman and Townes are both senior scientists at the Cancer Center.