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…


A Breast Cancer Tumor's Immune Signature Could Predict Response to Neoadjuvant Therapy

“In a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Denkert et al found that increased tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and the presence of lymphocyte-predominant breast cancer were associated with increased rates of pathologic complete response in patients receiving neoadjuvant anthracycline-taxane treatment with or without carboplatin. Higher rates were observed with carboplatin, with treatment interactions being significant among all patients and among those with HER2-positive disease but not among those with triple-negative disease. mRNA profiles for immune-related genes also distinguished pathologic complete response rates.

“The study involved 580 tumors from patients in the GeparSixto trial, which assessed the effects on pathologic complete response rates of adding carboplatin to neoadjuvant anthracycline plus taxane treatment. The current analysis assessed the effects on pathologic complete response of tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte levels, the presence of lymphocyte–predominant disease, and levels of immune-activating (CXCL9, CCL5, CD8A, CD80, CXCL13, IGKC, CD21) and immunosuppressive genes (IDO1, PD-1, PD-L1, CTLA4, FOXP3).”


Longer Neoadjuvant Anti-HER2 Treatment Might Be More Effective for HER2+ Patients

The gist: Stage II and III breast cancer patients whose tumors are HER2-positive may benefit from longer treatment with the anti-HER2 drugs trastuzumab (aka Herceptin) and lapatinib (Tykerb). In a clinical trial, 28% of patients who received the drugs for 24 weeks had no more signs of an invasive tumor after their treatment. Only 12% of patients who received the drugs for 12 weeks had the same result. However, the difference in response was significant only in patients whose tumors were hormone receptor (HR)-positive and HER2-positive.