New Trends in Pre-Surgery Treatments for Breast Cancer


Non-metastatic breast cancers are most often treated with surgery, but if the tumors are fairly large, or involve nearby lymph nodes, neoadjuvant (pre-operative) treatments with chemotherapy (NAC) are done first. NAC often reduces the tumor size and kills cancer cells in lymph nodes, if present, prior to surgery, improving the outcome. The best possible result of neoadjuvant treatment is pCR (pathologic compete response), when the tumor is no longer visible in imaging studies. Here, I review the new directions in which neoadjuvant treatments are evolving.

Today, treatments for metastatic breast cancers are tailored for specific subtypes. Starting with the introduction of the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) for HER2-positive cancers, new, more specific treatment options were eventually developed and approved for other types as well. Estrogen deprivation endocrine therapies, lately prescribed in combination with CDK4/6 inhibitors, are used in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive cancers. Triple negative cancers (TNBC) are still treated mostly with chemotherapy, but immune checkpoint drugs and PARP inhibitors are explored in clinical trials, with some successes reported.

However, neoadjuvant treatments (except for HER2+ cancers) remain largely limited to chemotherapy regimens. This is starting to change now, with new approaches tailored to the cancer type being investigated in clinical trials.

In this regard, it is important to mention the I-SPY2 trial, NCT01042379, which started in 2010 and is for women with stage II-III breast cancer. It offers about a dozen drugs that are chosen based on particular features of the newly diagnosed cancers. This trial has a unique design and has produced some important results. Additional treatments and trials for various types of breast cancer are discussed below. Continue reading…


Neoadjuvant T-DM1 Improves pCR in HER2+/HR+ Early Breast Cancer

Excerpt:

“Twelve weeks of neoadjuvant T-DM1 (ado-trastuzumab emtansine; Kadcyla) with or without endocrine therapy induced superior pathologic complete response (pCR) compared with trastuzumab (Herceptin) plus endocrine therapy in patients with HER2-positive/HR-positive early breast cancer, according to findings recently published online in theJournal of Clinical Oncology.

“In the prospective, neoadjuvant phase II ADAPT trial conducted by the West German Study Group, pCR was 41.0% for patients assigned to T-DM1 alone and 41.5% for those who received T-DM1 and endocrine therapy. In contrast, 15.1% of patients assigned to trastuzumab and endocrine therapy had a pCR (P<.001).”

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Lapatinib/Trastuzumab/AI Triplet Nearly Doubles PFS in HER2+/HR+ Metastatic Breast Cancer

Excerpt:

“The triplet combination of HER2-targeted therapy and an aromatase inhibitor (AI) improved progression-free survival (PFS) by more than 5 months compared with the combination of trastuzumab (Herceptin) and an AI in patients with HER2+/HR+ breast cancer.

“In phase III results from the ALTERNATIVE trial presented at the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting, the median PFS was 11 months (95% CI, 8.3-13.8) for postmenopausal women with HER2+/HR+ metastatic breast cancer assigned to lapatinib (Tykerb) plus trastuzumab plus an AI compared with 5.7 months (95% CI, 5.5-8.4) for patients assigned to trastuzumab plus an AI. Lead study author William J. Gradishar MD, interim chief of hematology and oncology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said that represented a 38% reduction in the risk of progression (HR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.45-0.88; P = .0064).”

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ASCO 2017: Breast Cancer Treatment News


Last month, the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting took place in Chicago. Thousands of oncologists, patients, and journalists gathered to learn about the most recent developments in cancer research and treatment. Here are some breast cancer highlights from the meeting:

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is considered more responsive to treatment with immune checkpoint drugs than any other type of breast cancer. So far, these drugs have primarily been explored in metastatic TNBC, in combination with chemotherapy. The combination of “anti-PD-L1” and “anti-PD-1” immune checkpoint drugs with chemotherapy has now been examined in early-stage TNBC, in which a breast tumor can be surgically removed after neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Continue reading…


FDA Panel Backs Novel Anti-HER2 Drug for Breast Cancer

Excerpt:

“Another potential drug for HER2-positive breast cancer received strong numeric support from an FDA advisory committee, tempered by reservations about a broad indication, modest clinical benefit, and toxicity issues.

“By a 12-4 vote, the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC) supported FDA approval of the dual HER2/EGFR inhibitor neratinib for early HER2-positive breast cancer that relapses after trastuzumab (Herceptin) maintenance therapy.”

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Dual HER2-Blockade Plus AI Shows Promise in HER2+/ER+ Breast Cancer

Excerpt:

“Data from the phase II PERTAIN trial presented late last year at the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) showed that adding an aromatase inhibitor (AI) to pertuzumab (Perjeta) and trastuzumab (Herceptin) extended progression-free survival (PFS) by over 3 months versus trastuzumab plus an AI in patients with HER2-positive, HR-positive locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer.

“The median PFS was 18.89 months with the pertuzumab triplet compared with 15.80 months for trastuzumab and an AI alone (HR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.48-0.89; P = .007). The objective response rates were 63.3% versus 55.7%, respectively.”

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Three-Drug Breast Cancer Regimen Slows Progression

Excerpt:

“Adding a drug to a standard regimen for hormone receptor (HR)-positive and HER2-positive breast cancer improved progression-free survival, a researcher said here.

“In a Phase II randomized trial, investigators compared an aromatase inhibitor (AI) combined with pertuzumab (Perjeta) and trastuzumab (Herceptin) versus an AI just with trastuzumab in women with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer, Grazia Arpino, MD, PhD, of the University of Naples Federico II in Italy, reported at a general session at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

“The three-drug combination led to a median of 18.89 months without progression, compared with 15.8 months for the two drugs.”

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Hormonal Therapy Effectively Added to Dual HER2-Blockade in Phase II PERTAIN Study

Excerpt:

“The addition of an aromatase inhibitor (AI) to pertuzumab (Perjeta) and trastuzumab (Herceptin) improved progression-free survival (PFS) by 3.09 months, when compared with trastuzumab plus an AI, according to findings from the phase II PERTAIN trial presented at the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

“In the ongoing, open-label study, the median PFS was 18.89 months with the pertuzumab combination compared with 15.80 months for trastuzumab and an AI alone. Furthermore, there was a 35% reduction in the risk of progression or death with the addition of pertuzumab (HR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.48-0.89; P = .007).”

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Drugs Prevent Heart Damage During Breast Cancer Treatment, Study Show

Excerpt:

“Heart medication taken in combination with chemotherapy reduces the risk of serious cardiovascular damage in patients with early-stage breast cancer, according to results from a new landmark clinical trial.

“Existing research has shown some cancer therapies such as Herceptin greatly improve survival rates for early-stage breast cancer, but come with a fivefold risk of heart failure—a devastating condition as life-threatening as the cancer itself.

“A new five-year study, led by researchers at the University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Alberta Cancer Foundation, shows that two kinds of heart medications, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors, effectively prevent a drop in heart function from cancer treatment.”

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