A team of Japanese researchers said they have succeeded in separating and killing a subgroup of drug-tolerant breast cancer stem cells by using existing medicines currently used for heart failure.

The study, published Thursday in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could lead to the future development of a therapy for patients with so-called triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), said the team led by Noriko Goto at Kanazawa University.

The term “triple-negative” means the cancer cells don’t have estrogen or progesterone receptors and also don’t make the protein called HER2.