Many types of breast cancer respond to drugs because "they have receptors on their surface which bind to drugs like Tamoxifen, but triple negative don't have receptors, so the drugs don't work," Nithiyandam told the Telegraph.
Some women with triple breast cancer respond to therapy well, while others quickly decline. The reason lies in the structure and behavior of cancer cells. Differentiated cells look like healthy ones and are less aggressive. Undifferentiated cells, in contrast, do not become recognizable breast tissue, spreading quickly and forming tumors. The aim is to shift cancer cells to a state where they can be treated.
The teenager also suggests that increasing the activity of Phosphatase and tensin homolog — a tumor suppressor gene — will improve the utility of standard chemotherapy. Combining the two methods will allow for a more effective treatment, he said, compared to the traditional methodology.
Nithiyandam also developed an Alzheimer's test which he claims can spot indicators of the disease 10 years before modern diagnostics, potentially stopping its spread, work for which he won the 2015 Google Science Fair.
The teen hopes to gain interest from the scientific community to develop his work. "The next stage of research would be studying the effects of increased PTEN expression in more detail but also trying to develop a system which would allow me to successfully introduce PTEN and the ID4 inhibitors in vivo," he said.