Background: We have previously shown in animal models that combination anti-HER2 therapy leads to complete tumor regression of HER2+ breast cancer (BC). We translated these findings in a neoadjuvant trial of 12 weeks (wks) of L+T (TBCRC006) that demonstrated a meaningful pathologic complete response (pCR) and near pCR (in ER+ tumors) in patients with locally advanced HER2+ BC. In the present trial, we sought to determine whether longer treatment would lead to a higher rate of pCR without the use of chemotherapy by converting near pCR to pCR especially in the ER+ subset.

Methods: TBCRC023 (NCT00999804) is a randomized phase II trial combining a Simon Phase 2 design in the experimental arm with a pick-the-winner design, not powered for direct comparison. Women with HER2+ BC measuring 2 cm or larger were eligible and were randomized in a 1:2 ratio to 12 vs. 24 wks of L+T. Letrozole (along with ovarian suppression if premenopausal) was also administered in patients whose tumors were also ER+. Serial tumor biopsies were obtained at baseline, wk 1, wk 12, and at the time of surgery. All evaluable patients were assessed for pCR, defined as no residual invasive carcinoma in the breast. Patients did not undergo surgery, withdrew consent, or received additional neoadjuvant therapy were counted as non-responders.

Results: Ninety-seven patients were enrolled (33 in 12-wk arm and 64 in 24-wk arm), of whom 95 were evaluable. Seventy seven percent of patients were white and 18% were black. Twenty percent were of Hispanic ethnicity. Median age was 51 and 55% were postmenopausal. Median tumor size was 5 cm and 65% were ER+. Study treatment was well tolerated with grade 1-2 diarrhea (24% in 12-wk arm, 31% in 24-wk arm) and grade 1-2 acneform rash (12% in 12-wk arm, 19% in 24-wk arm) being the most common toxicities. Grade 3 toxicities were uncommon and were mostly in the 24-wk arm (elevated liver function test: 9%, diarrhea 2%, mucositis 2%), while the 12-wk arm had one grade 3 anemia and the study’s only serious adverse event (acute kidney injury). There were no grade 4 toxicities.

The experimental arm completed stage 2 accrual and pCR rate was numerically superior to control, entirely due to better results in ER+ (Table 1), but lower than the expected pCR rate of 36% needed in the planned analysis to conclude in favor of enhanced efficacy with extended therapy. pCR rates were also lower in the control arm than in the previous study.

Table 1. pCR rates

  12-week arm % (n) 24-week arm % (n) 
ER-positive 8.7% (2/23) 33.2% (13/39) 
ER-negative 20% (2/10) 8.7% (2/23) 
Overall pCR 12.2% (4/33) 24.2% (15/62) 
  12-week arm % (n) 24-week arm % (n) 
ER-positive 8.7% (2/23) 33.2% (13/39) 
ER-negative 20% (2/10) 8.7% (2/23) 
Overall pCR 12.2% (4/33) 24.2% (15/62) 

Conclusions: Treatment with L+T (with endocrine therapy in ER+ tumors) for 24 weeks leads to doubling of the pCR rate in women with HER2+ breast cancer without using cytotoxic chemotherapy. This approach is effective and well tolerated and warrants study as part of a de-escalation strategy that may spare some patients the cost and toxicity of chemotherapy. Tissue obtained on this trial will provide a valuable resource to validate correlative findings from our prior studies and discover new biomarkers to help guide proper patient selection for treatment.

Citation Format: Mothaffar F Rimawi, Polly A Niravath, Tao Wang, Brent Rexer, Andres Forero, Antonio C Wolff, Rita Nanda, Anna M Storniolo, Ian Krop, Matthew P Goetz, Julie R Nangia, Sao Jiralerspong, Anne C Pavlick, Carolina Gutierrez, Rachel Schiff, Susan G Hilsenbeck, C Kent Osborne. TBCRC023: A randomized multicenter phase II neoadjuvant trial of lapatinib plus trastuzumab, with endcorine therapy and without chemotherapy, for 12 vs. 24 weeks in patients with HER2 overexpressing breast cancer [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Annual CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium: 2014 Dec 9-13; San Antonio, TX. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2015;75(9 Suppl):Abstract nr S6-02.