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Breakthrough research at UT shows promise in treating drug-resistant form of deadly breast cancer

A University of Toledo cancer researcher has received nearly $450,000 in grant funding from Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio to continue his research into triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease that frequently develops resistance to existing chemotherapies.

Dr. Amit K. Tiwari, an assistant professor in UT’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences who specializes in investigating multidrug resistant cancers, recently identified a new chemotherapy drug that is showing promise in curing triple negative breast cancer, even in cases where patients have developed resistance to conventional chemotherapy.

Tiwari

“Poor prognosis in most triple negative breast cancer cases is due to development of drug resistance. Once patients develop resistance to one chemotherapy, they stop responding to any other chemotherapy. Resistant triple negative breast cancer results in metastasis, diminishing patient survival time to less than a year,” Tiwari said. “These new drugs are unique. Not only are they showing promise in destroying triple negative breast cancer cells, but even if the disease gets to the stage of drug resistance, it is reversing the resistance and making it more sensitive to traditional chemotherapy.”

Triple negative breast cancer accounts for between 15 percent to 20 percent of all breast cancer cases. Treatment is difficult because the cancer does not respond to hormonal therapies or therapies that target HER2 receptors — common methods of treating other breast cancers.

But what makes the disease especially deadly is that the patient often develops resistance to currently available chemotherapy drugs.

“The goal of my research has been to understand why these patients end up getting drug resistance and how we can stop it,” Tiwari said.

His research led him to targeting the cancer cells in a nonconventional way, which has proven both successful in treating the disease and in reversing drug resistance. The new treatment, which has been lab-tested on human breast cancer models, has been provisionally patented by UT.

With the three-year grant from Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio, Tiwari and his team of researchers at The University of Toledo will be able to continue development and research of the new drugs and move their work closer to clinical trials.

“We are so thankful for the friends, family and neighbors that fight alongside us, helping to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths in Ohio, both on the ground and through research,” said Mary Westphal, executive director of Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio. “As we celebrate 25 years of impact in northwest Ohio, we are so pleased to be able to award this grant to our partners at The University of Toledo.”

“The University of Toledo is a long-standing partner of Komen Northwest Ohio, receiving funding to support community health programming and advance scientific research for a number of years,” UT Vice President for Research Frank Calzonetti said. “Dr. Tiwari’s efforts to develop new treatments for the most aggressive form of breast cancer is the latest example of how our talented faculty experts are advancing knowledge that impacts our community.”

Triple negative breast cancer patients currently have a poor five-year survival prognosis; however, Tiwari said those who do make it to the five-year mark have a good long-term prognosis. If the new treatment is proven to be as promising as the initial research suggests, Tiwari said it could be a major breakthrough toward curing triple negative breast cancer.

“This actually brings a lot of hope,” Tiwari said.