Breast cancer (BC) in young women has unique biology and poor prognosis. Previous reports suggest that they often express RANKL, which was also shown to play a role in mammary tumorigenesis and various immune processes. Here, we present the primary results of D-BEYOND, a window study investigating the biological activity of the RANKL inhibitor; denosumab in pre-menopausal BC patients.


D-BEYOND is a prospective, phase Iia, single-arm, multicenter study assessing the effect of denosumab on BC biology in premenopausal women with early BC (NCT01864798). Patients received two subcutaneous injections of denosumab (120mg), one week apart, followed by breast surgery. The primary endpoint was geometric mean change in tumor Ki67 assessed by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Blood, tumor and normal adjacent breast tissue were collected pre- and post-treatment. Serum levels of RANKL, OPG and CTX were assessed by ELISA. RNA was extracted from fresh-frozen tissue and RNAseq was performed. DESeq2 was used for differential expression analysis, GAGE was used for pathway analysis and CIBERSORT was used to infer immune cell subsets between pre- and post-treatment. Ki67, CD4/Foxp3 and CD4/CD8 IHC were performed on FFPE tissue to further assess the immune microenvironment. The percentage of TILs was independently evaluated by two pathologists on H&E slides. Pre- and post-treatment values were compared using a paired t-test.


A total of 27 patients were enrolled in the study between October 2013 and July 2016. The median age was 45 years (range 35-51 years). Tumors of 21 patients were hormone receptor positive (77.8%), 4 were HER2 positive (14.8%) and 2 were triple negative (7.4%). No serious adverse events were reported, the most frequent non-serious adverse event being arthralgia (14.8%). After treatment, serum levels of CTX and RANKL decreased in all patients (P < 0.001) whereas OPG increased in 76.9% of patients (P = 0.009, 95% CI 0.56-0.91). There was no significant reduction of Ki67 values from baseline (geometric mean [GM] change after treatment; 0.98, 95% CI 0.76-1.26; P = 0.90). Twenty-four pre- and post-treatment tumor pairs were available for RNAseq, IHC and TILs evaluation. There was a significant increase in the percentage of stromal TILs after treatment (GM change of 1.75, 95% CI 1.28–2.39; P = 0.001). 1084 differentially expressed genes were identified and pathway analysis revealed enrichment of several immune processes. CIBERSORT revealed an enrichment of CD8+ T cells (GM change 1.72, 95% CI 1.19–2.48; P = 0.006) and a decrease of Treg cells (0.71, 95% CI 0.52–0.98, P = 0.040). These results were confirmed by IHC of CD8+ and CD4+/Foxp3+ cells (GM change 1.59, 95% CI 1.14–2.21; P = 0.008 and 0.63, 95% CI 0.49–0.83, P = 0.001, respectively).


Short course of denosumab did not reduce tumor proliferation rate. However, it induced a significant increase in TILs and CD8 cytotoxic T cells, while Treg infiltration decreased. These findings suggest an immunomodulatory role for denosumab in young breast cancer and that its use in combination could boost immunotherapy efficacy.

Citation Format: Nguyen B, Marion M, Salgado R, Venet D, Vuylsteke P, Polastro L, Wieldiers H, Simon P, Lindeman G, Larsimont D, Van den Eynden G, Velghe C, Rothe F, Garaud S, Michiels S, Willard-Gallo K, Azim Jr HA, Loi S, Piccart M, Sotiriou C. The immunomodulatory potential of denosumab in breast cancer: results from D-BEYOND, a window of opportunity trial evaluating a RANK-ligand (RANKL) inhibitor and its biological effects in young pre-menopausal women diagnosed with early breast cancer [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 2018 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; 2018 Dec 4-8; San Antonio, TX. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2019;79(4 Suppl):Abstract nr PD5-06.