Long-Term Follow-up Confirms Low Incidence of Cardiac Events Associated With Trastuzumab

“At a median follow-up of 8 years, patients receiving trastuzumab (Herceptin) sequentially after chemotherapy and radiotherapy in the Herceptin Adjuvant (HERA) trial had a low incidence of cardiac events and these were reversible in the vast majority of patients. This long-term assessment confirms and extends previous reports of cardiac safety.

“The three-arm HERA trial compared 2 years or 1 year of trastuzumab with observation in 5,102 patients with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive early-stage breast cancer. ‘This is the first time that results of the 2-year trastuzumab arm have been reported, and the follow-up time has doubled,’ researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Eligible patients had a left-ventricular ejection fraction of at least 55% following neoadjuvant chemotherapy with or without radiotherapy and cardiac function was closely monitored. Cardiac adverse events leading to discontinuation of trastuzumab occurred in 9.4% of the 1,673 patients receiving 2 years of trastuzumab and 5.2% of the 1,682 patients receiving 1 year of trastuzumab.”

Editor’s note: This story discusses the results of a study that investigated the effects of the drug trastuzumab (brand name Herceptin) on cardiac health. The study involved 5,102 patients with HER2-positive, early-stage breast cancer. All of the patients had been previously treated. Patients were given trastuzumab as an adjuvant therapy—a treatment given after the main treatment to keep cancer from returning. Researchers found a low incidence of adverse cardiac events for the patients. However, they say that each patient should still have a cardiac assessment before and while taking trastuzumab to ensure that any problems are detected early.


AbbVie Initiates Veliparib Phase III Trial in BRCA-mutated Advanced Breast Cancer Patients

“AbbVie has initiated its Phase III trial investigating the safety and efficacy of the investigational PARP inhibitor veliparib in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel in advanced breast cancer patients.

“In the double-blind study, researchers will randomize nearly 300 patients to receive either veliparib, plus the carboplatin/paclitaxel combination, or just the chemotherapy regimen. Metastatic or locally advanced breast cancer patients enrolled in the trial will have to have tumors that are HER2 negative, but positive for BRCA1/2 mutations. AbbVie is working with Myriad Genetics to use its BRACAnalysis test to gauge BRCA mutations in study subjects.

“Researchers will assess in the study whether adding veliparib significantly increases patients’ progression-free survival compared to treatment with only chemotherapy. Other endpoints in the study are overall survival, clinical benefit rate, objective response rate, and duration of response.”

Editor’s note: Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments on volunteer patients. In many clinical trials, some patients receive the new drug being tested, and for comparison, some patients receive “standard of care” treatment, meaning a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatment that their oncologists would likely have considered for them. This story discusses a new clinical trial that is testing a drug called veliparib. The trial is enrolling people with advanced breast cancer who are HER2 negative and have BRCA1/2 mutations. Some of the patients will be treated with standard chemotherapy (a combination of the drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel), and some will receive veliparib PLUS standard chemotherapy. The trial is randomized, meaning patients will not get to choose which of the two treatments they receive. The goal of the clinical trial is to figure out whether adding veliparib to the chemo improves outcomes for patients.


Continued Event-Free Survival Benefit of Neoadjuvant/Adjuvant Trastuzumab in HER2-Positive Locally Advanced Breast Cancer

The gist: A recent clinical trial found that the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) improves survival and lowers the risk of recurrence for women with HER2-positive, locally advanced breast cancer. Patients in the trial received Herceptin as part of both neoadjuvant (before surgery) and adjuvant (after surgery) treatment. The researchers followed the patients for five years after treatment.

“As reported by Gianni et al in The Lancet Oncology, long-term follow-up of women with HER2-positive locally advanced breast cancer receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy alone vs with neoadjuvant and adjuvant trastuzumab (Herceptin) in the phase III NOAH trial has shown continued event-free survival benefit of trastuzumab treatment and a strong association of event-free survival with pathologic complete response rate in trastuzumab recipients.

“In this open-label trial, 235 women with HER2-positive locally advanced or inflammatory breast cancer were randomly assigned to receive neoadjuvant chemotherapy alone (n = 118) or with 1 year of trastuzumab given concurrently with neoadjuvant chemotherapy and continued after surgery. (A parallel group with HER2-negative disease received neoadjuvant chemotherapy alone; outcomes in this group are not reported here.)”


Ohio State Partners with MedVax to Bring a Cancer Peptide Vaccine to Patients

“The Ohio State University, through the Ohio State Innovation Foundation, has signed an exclusive world-wide licensing agreement with MedVax Technologies, Inc., for the licensing of groundbreaking cancer peptide vaccine technologies.

“The anticancer vaccine technologies are designed for the treatment and prevention of cancers associated with the HER2 protein. These include breast, ovarian, lung, colon and pancreatic cancers, and gastrointestinal stromal tumors. The commitment by MedVax will allow innovative clinical trials for various cancers to be conducted in the near future.”

Editor’s Note: Cancer vaccines are a type of “immune therapy,” which means that they boost a patient’s immune system to fight cancer. To learn more about immune therapies for lung cancer, read our blog feature on the topic.


FDA to Regulate Personalized Medicine

Now that medical treatment is increasingly tailored to patient subtypes (eg, lung cancer patients with mutations in the ALK gene can be treated with Xalkori), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a new report explaining how it will regulate personalized therapies and tests. The first targeted therapy used in the U.S. was trastuzumab, which is for HER2 breast cancer and was approved in 1998. Since then, the FDA has approved more than 100 treatments that target specific genetic abnormalities, including four drugs for cancer subtypes that are identified by companion test kits.


FDA to Regulate Personalized Medicine

Now that medical treatment is increasingly tailored to patient subtypes (eg, lung cancer patients with mutations in the ALK gene can be treated with Xalkori), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a new report explaining how it will regulate personalized therapies and tests. The first targeted therapy used in the U.S. was trastuzumab, which is for HER2 breast cancer and was approved in 1998. Since then, the FDA has approved more than 100 treatments that target specific genetic abnormalities, including four drugs for cancer subtypes that are identified by companion test kits.


FDA to Regulate Personalized Medicine

Now that medical treatment is increasingly tailored to patient subtypes (eg, lung cancer patients with mutations in the ALK gene can be treated with Xalkori), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a new report explaining how it will regulate personalized therapies and tests. The first targeted therapy used in the U.S. was trastuzumab, which is for HER2 breast cancer and was approved in 1998. Since then, the FDA has approved more than 100 treatments that target specific genetic abnormalities, including four drugs for cancer subtypes that are identified by companion test kits.


Clinical Response to a Lapatinib-Based Therapy of a Li-Fraumeni Syndrome Patient with a Novel HER2-V659E Mutation

“Genomic characterization of recurrent breast and lung tumors developed over the course of 10 years in a 29-year-old patient with a germline p53 mutation (Li-Fraumeni Syndrome) identified oncogenic alterations in the HER2 and EGFR genes across all tumors, including HER2 amplifications, an EGFR-exon 20 insertion, and the first-in-human HER2-V659E mutation showing a phenotypic convergent evolution towards HER2 and EGFR alterations. Following the identification of HER2-activating events in the most recent lung carcinoma and in circulating tumor cells, we treated the reminiscent metastatic lesions with a lapatinib-based therapy. A clinical response both symptomatic and radiologic was achieved. HER2-V659E sensitivity to lapatinib was confirmed in the laboratory.”


Safer, Peptide-Based Therapies Studied as Alternative to Monoclonal Antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies and small-molecule inhibitors have been the primary treatment methods for many types of cancer for many years, but new studies may change that. Peptides, proteins made of small chains of 10 to 50 amino acids, are being examined as possible cost-effective, more successful, safer anticancer vaccines. Researchers have identified two regions on the HER1 (also known as the EGFR) protein as possible targets for these peptide-based drugs. These agents could be used in the treatment of lung cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and head and neck cancers. If successful, the EGFR-targeting peptide vaccines could be combined with immunotherapies for the HER2 and VEGF proteins, possibly reducing the likelihood that the cancer will develop resistance to the treatment, a common pitfall of monoclonal antibody drugs such as cetuximab (Erbitux).