New HERizons: HER2-Positive Breast Cancer and the Legacy of Herceptin


Twenty years ago, no targeted treatments existed for breast cancers with high levels of a protein called HER2 (HER2-positive, or HER2+). The significance of HER2 in breast cancer had only been recognized in 1987, when excessive levels of the protein were identified in about 20% of breast cancers. Oncologists realized that high levels of HER2 mark a type of cancer with a poor prognosis, as compared to the predominant type of breast cancer: estrogen receptor-positive, HER2 negative (HER2-).

The possibility of targeting HER2 to treat cancer was fulfilled in 1998, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Herceptin (generic name trastuzumab), for treatment of metastatic HER2+ breast cancer. Made by Genentech, Herceptin is a type of drug known as a humanized antibody, meaning that it mimics an immune system attack on tumor cells, specifically those with high levels of HER2. Now, 20 years later, it is easier to appreciate the significance of this drug, which literally changed the lives of many HER2+ breast cancer patients, and continues to do so today. Continue reading…


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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Study Findings Provide Latest Data on Neoadjuvant HER2+ Breast Cancer Treatment

Excerpt:

“Results from the KRISTINE and NSABP B-41 trials provided the latest data on the use of pertuzumab (Perjeta), trastuzumab (Herceptin), ado-trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1; Kadcyla), and lapatinib (Tykerb) for the neoadjuvant treatment of patients with HER2-positive breast cancer.

“In a lecture at the 2016 ASCO Annual Meeting, Stephen K. Chia, MD, an assistant professor in the division of Medical Oncology at the University of British Columbia, highlighted the key findings from these trials and their implications for the treatment of HER2+ breast cancer.”

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Expert Discusses Latest Data in Neoadjuvant HER2+ Breast Cancer

Excerpt:

“Results from the KRISTINE and NSABP B-41 trials presented at the 2016 ASCO Annual Meeting provided the latest data on the use of pertuzumab (Perjeta), trastuzumab (Herceptin), ado-trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1; Kadcyla), and lapatinib (Tykerb) for the neoadjuvant treatment of patients with HER2-positive breast cancer.

“In a lecture at the conference, Stephen K. Chia, MD, an assistant professor in the division of Medical Oncology at the University of British Columbia, highlighted the key findings from these trials and their implications for the treatment of HER2+ breast cancer.”

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EBCC-10 NEWS: Combination of Lapatinib and Trastuzumab Shrinks HER2 Positive Breast Cancer Significantly in 11 Days After Diagnosis

“Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Approximately a quarter of women with HER2 positive breast cancer, who were treated with a combination of the targeted drugs lapatinib and trastuzumab before surgery and chemotherapy, saw their tumours shrink significantly or even disappear, according to results from a clinical trial.

“Professor Nigel Bundred told the 10th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-10) today (Thursday): ‘This has ground-breaking potential because it allows us to identify a group of patients who, within 11 days, have had their tumours disappear with anti-HER2 therapy alone and who potentially may not require subsequent chemotherapy. This offers the opportunity to tailor treatment for each individual woman.’

“Prof Bundred, who is Professor of Surgical Oncology at The University of Manchester and the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust (UK), was presenting results from the UK EPHOS-B multi-centre, clinical trial, in which 257 women with newly-diagnosed, operable, HER2 positive disease were recruited between November 2010 and September 2015.”


T-DM1 Improved Overall Survival for Heavily Pretreated Patients With HER2-positive Breast Cancer

“Among patients with HER2-positive, metastatic breast cancer that had progressed despite treatment with two or more forms of HER2-targeted therapy (trastuzumab [Herceptin] and lapatinib [Tykerb]), median overall survival was increased for those treated with trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1 [Kadcyla]) compared with those who received treatment of physician’s choice, according to results from the phase III TH3RESA clinical trial presented at the 2015 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held Dec. 8–12.

“The HER2-targeted antibody-drug conjugate T-DM1 was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in February 2013 for treating patients with HER2-positive, metastatic breast cancer that had progressed after treatment with trastuzumab and a taxane.”


HER2-Enriched Molecular Subgroup Highly Sensitive to Breast Cancer Regimens

“The primary analysis of the phase III CALGB 40601 trial found that pathologic complete response (pCR) to dual HER2 blockade was not statistically higher than anti-HER2 monotherapy. However, there was a high level of intertumoral heterogeneity, and patients with the HER2-enriched subtype had a high pCR with both single and dual anti-HER2 therapy, according to data recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“ ‘This trial paves the way for integrating molecular analyses into other trials in HER2-positive breast cancer, and may allow us to take a less-is-more approach for women who are selected to be highly sensitive to targeted treatments and to have a good prognosis,’ said lead study author Lisa Carey, MD, a UNC Lineberger member, the Richardson and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer Distinguished Professor in Breast Cancer Research at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and the physician-in-chief of the North Carolina Cancer Hospital, in a statement.”


Drug Combo Effective for Metastatic HER2+ Breast Ca

“The combination of lapatinib (Tykerb) and trastuzumab (Herceptin) is active and well-tolerated when given to patients with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive (HER2) metastatic breast cancer (MBC) who have received up to two lines of therapy for advanced disease, a nonrandomized phase II study now shows.

“What’s more, early metabolic imaging by 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (18F-FDG-PET/CT) appears to provide the key to selecting patients who can be treated with targeted regimens and spared the toxicity of chemotherapy, Nancy U. Lin, MD, Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Ma., and colleagues report online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

” ‘Because the number of treatment options and their cost for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer continues to increase, a key question is how best to tailor therapies to individual patients,’ said Lin. ‘In the metastatic setting, predictive tests for clinical benefit could spare patients unnecessary toxicity and cost from ineffective therapies and maximize the likelihood of meaningful improvements from treatment. In the early-stage setting, predictive tests may reduce both under- and overtreatment.’ “


Higher Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocyte Level Associated With Better Outcomes in HER2-Positive Early Breast Cancer Independent of Neoadjuvant Treatment

“In an analysis of the NeoALTTO trial reported in JAMA Oncology, Salgado et al found that a higher level of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes was associated with improved pathologic compete response rate and event-free survival independent of neoadjuvant treatment received in patients with HER2-positive early breast cancer.

“In NeoALTTO, 455 patients were randomly assigned to receive neoadjuvant trastuzumab (Herceptin), lapatinib (Tykerb), or the combination for 6 weeks followed by the addition of weekly paclitaxel for 12 weeks and three cycles of fluorouracil, epirubicin, and cyclophosphamide after surgery. Percentage of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes were measured by hematoxylin-eosin stained core biopsy sections taken at diagnosis.”