Progress Update

Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes elevate a person’s lifetime risk of getting aggressive, hereditary malignancies such as triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC). If a patient has these inherited mutations, it’s possible that her sisters, daughters and other relatives might have the same risk-increasing mutations.

This moon shot offers personalized genetic screening and counseling to TNBC and HGSOC patients to see if they have mutations in their BRCA genes and also offers the same to the family members of those who test positive. Learn more about the moon shot’s Research, Education and Awareness of Cancer family History (REACH) program that was first launched in 2014. The first phase of the program has been so informative to clinical successes that leaders of the moon shot are exploring ways to extend personalized genetic screening and counseling to breast cancer patients and their family members across the United States.

About TNBC

Finding the right target

A flood of new knowledge and technology makes now the time to fast-track the cancer fight and make a giant leap for patients. We’re merging today’s high potential for achievement with our unique knowledge and expertise, derived from decades of leadership in the cancer field.

Most successful treatments for breast cancer take aim at specific proteins expressed by individual tumors: estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). But TNBC doesn’t express any of these biomarkers, so there’s no current option for targeted therapy. This limits treatment mainly to surgery and chemotherapy, which are less effective against TNBC. Even if caught early, TNBC has an overall five-year survival of 60% compared to 80% for other types. To improve patient outcomes, we’re researching novel genetic markers to identify new plans of attack.

Gifts to this research program will help increase our biological understanding of TNBC and allow us to identify and develop new targeted therapies, plus strategies for prevention and early detection. Our goal is to offer the most personalized course of therapy possible, optimized to match — and defeat — each patient’s tumor at the molecular level.

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Research Projects
Breast and Ovarian Cancers Moon Shot leaders, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Genetically speaking, TNBC has much in common with high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC), another deadly malignancy that claims the lives of thousands of women each year. This genetic link drives our novel, unified research effort, the Breast and Ovarian Cancers Moon Shot.

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MD Anderson and the Moon Shots Program
Making Cancer History®

New knowledge and progress-enabling technologies make this the time to reduce cancer deaths. MD Anderson's comprehensive Moon Shots Program capitalizes on these novel resources as it builds on a 70-plus-year history of renowned expertise, lifesaving innovation and global impact.

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Breast Cancer, Stories of Hope

Delia battled stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer and came through strong. Her medical team worked on a novel treatment option that incorporates carboplatin, a new drug in the standard chemo regimen, and reverses the order in which drugs are given to minimize unwanted side effects. Delia is hopeful for the future and confident that through the Moon Shots Program, MD Anderson will find a successful targeted treatment for TNBC and end the waiting game for future cancer patients. Read her story.


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Making Cancer History® for the Family is a community outreach project of the Breast and Ovarian Cancers Moon Shot. It aims to help identify those who carry mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes — mutations that increase their susceptibility to developing TNBC and ovarian cancers. All MD Anderson patients with breast or ovarian cancers undergo comprehensive genetic testing to check for changes in their BRCA genes. Those who test positive are informed of their family members’ higher risk of developing the same cancers, should they too test positive, and these individuals are also offered counseling and preventive screening.

Learn more about genetic testing

Clinical Trials 101

PARP is a protein family linked to a cell’s ability to repair its own DNA. Drugs that inhibit this ability, exploit a weakness that prevents cancer cells from repairing themselves after they have been damaged by chemotherapy. The inhibitors also promote cell death within tumors linked to BRCA mutations.


Mien-Chie Hung, Ph.D., chair and professor of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, led a landmark study that showed PARP inhibitors to be even more effective when combined with inhibitors that target an oncogene known as c-MET, which is overexpressed in many cancers.


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