Skip to McMaster Navigation Skip to main content

Dr. Juliet Daniel Lab

Molecular Biology Cancer Research

iFundMac Campaign

Donate to our research on Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) here

The Story

Breast cancer (BC) is the most frequent cause of female cancer deaths worldwide. However, women diagnosed with the triple negative BC (TNBC) subtype still have a poor outcome because TNBCs are more prone than other BC subtypes to spread to vital organs such as the lungs and liver, and there are no specific therapies for TNBC. This lack of TNBC-specific therapies is due to the fact that TNBCs lack expression of three key proteins which are clinically used to classify and diagnose BC and also serve as specific targets for current BC drugs.

Intriguingly, TNBC is most common in young women of African ancestry (WAA) and Hispanic origin who despite low BC incidence rates compared to women of other ethnicities, have higher mortality rates than other races. This racial disparity in TNBC prevalence and mortality rates appears unrelated to socio-economic status and hints at unidentified ancestral genetic risk factors as the cause. Recent studies from our lab and others have
observed high expression of a protein named Kaiso in TNBCs, and this correlates with poor
overall survival.

The Project

To learn more about Kaiso’s role in TNBC and its possible role in the racial disparity associated with TNBC prevalence in women of African ancestry (WAA), we are studying TNBC in Caribbean (Barbados) and West African (Nigeria) populations that have a high TNBC frequency, and thus a high probability of possessing a TNBC-associated genetic defect if one exists. We chose these populations because Barbados has similar lifestyles but less genetic mixing than North American WAA, while Nigeria is an indigenous West African population that is ancestrally linked to most North American and Caribbean WAA. We plan to collect and analyze TNBC tissues from hundreds of Nigerian and Barbadian women, and African-Caribbean women in the greater Toronto area (GTA), to identify unique genetic differences that may explain TNBC prevalence and the high mortality rates in WAA. We are also hosting Breast Cancer Awareness and Education Workshops for young WAA in the GTA. Our long-term goal is to use the unique identified genetic risk factors as diagnostic or prognostic biomarkers (such as currently done using BRCA1).