American researchers have highlighted a potential new therapy for triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive and difficult-to-treat form of the disease.

A research team from Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) and Wayne State University has established through preclinical experiments that the drug "carbozantinib" slows down the growth of many cancer subtypes.

The researchers established that "carbozantinib" after slowing down the development of the cancer subtypes, spreads throughout the patient's body and inhibits the MET protein as well.

MET protein is the cancer catalyst that fuels the process of cancer developing, spreading and becoming too aggressive to be treated. It also invades other tissues, produces more cancer cells and helps their survival as well.

For the preclinical experiments, VARI and Wayne researchers used unique cancer models, having both breast cancer cells as well as connective tissue cells that often help in the cancer growth. Their discoveries not only throws light on a potential new treatment for triple-negative breast cancer, but also shows that MET protein plays a significant part in the development and invasion of other cells by cancer cells.

"In this study we used two complementary preclinical models to analyse drug responses of the tumor in the context of interactions with its micro environment, which is known to contribute to malignancy," Bonnie Sloane of Wayne State University and the co-senior author of the study, said.

Triple-negative breast cancer is unaffected by several current, known therapies because it doesn't have the vital proteins – the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), and receptors for the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which convey messages to and from the cancer cells. These proteins are the common targets of all familiar treatments, making this particular form of breast cancer resistant to treatment options.

Carrie Graveel, a VARI professor and a corresponding author of the study revealed that of all breast cancer cases, only around 15% to 20% are of triple-negative breast cancer; still it is "responsible for a disproportionate number of cancer-related deaths."

"Carbozantinib" is also used in the current clinical trials in advanced kidney and liver cancers, and has already been sanctioned to treat metastatic medullary thyroid cancer.

The study has been published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.