Adjuvant VERZENIO® with Endocrine Therapy in High Risk Early Stage Breast Cancer

SUMMARY: Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the US and about 1 in 8 women 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Approximately 284,200 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2021 and about 44,130 individuals will die of the disease largely due to metastatic recurrence. About 70% of breast tumors express Estrogen Receptors and/or Progesterone Receptors, and Hormone Receptor (HR)-positive/HER2-negative breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed molecular subtype. Majority of these patients are diagnosed with early stage disease and are often cured with a combination of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy. However approximately 20% of patients will experience local recurrence or distant relapse during the first 10 years of treatment. This may be more relevant for those with high risk disease, among whom the risk of recurrence is even greater during the first 2 years while on adjuvant endocrine therapy, due to primary endocrine resistance. More than 75% of the early recurrences are seen at distant sites.

Cyclin Dependent Kinases (CDKs) play a very important role to facilitate orderly and controlled progression of the cell cycle. Genetic alterations in these kinases and their regulatory proteins have been implicated in various malignancies. CDK 4 and 6 phosphorylate RetinoBlastoma protein (RB), and initiate transition from the G1 phase to the S phase of the cell cycle. RetinoBlastoma protein has antiproliferative and tumor-suppressor activity and phosphorylation of RB protein nullifies its beneficial activities. CDK4 and CDK6 are activated in hormone receptor positive breast cancer, promoting breast cancer cell proliferation. Further, there is evidence to suggest that endocrine resistant breast cancer cell lines depend on CDK4 for cell proliferation. The understanding of the role of Cyclin Dependent Kinases in the cell cycle, has paved the way for the development of CDK inhibitors.Cell-Cycle-Inhibition-by-ABEMACICLIB-A-CDK4-and-CDK6-Inhibitor

VERZENIO® (Abemaciclib) is an oral, selective inhibitor of CDK4 and CDK6 kinase activity, and prevents the phosphorylation and subsequent inactivation of the Rb tumor suppressor protein, thereby inducing G1 cell cycle arrest and inhibition of cell proliferation. VERZENIO® is structurally distinct from other CDK 4 and 6 inhibitors (such as Ribociclib and Palbociclib) and is 14 times more potent against cyclin D1/CDK 4 and cyclin D3/CDK 6, in enzymatic assays, but potentially less toxic than earlier pan-CDK inhibitors. At higher doses, only VERZENIO® causes significant cancer cell death, compared with other CDK4/6 inhibitors, suggesting that this drug may be affecting proteins, other than CDK4/6. Additionally, preclinical studies have demonstrated that VERZENIO® may have additional therapeutic benefits for a subset of tumors that are unresponsive to treatment or have grown resistant to other CDK4/6 inhibitors. It has also been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier.

VERZENIO® is presently approved by the FDA as monotherapy as well as in combination with endocrine therapy for patients with HR-positive, HER2- negative advanced breast cancer. The addition of VERZENIO® to FASLODEX® resulted in a statistically significant improvement in Overall Survival among patients with HR-positive, HER2-negative advanced breast cancer, who had progressed on prior endocrine therapy. The goal of monarchE was to evaluate the additional benefit of adding a CDK4/6 inhibitor to endocrine therapy in the adjuvant setting, for patients with HR-positive, HER2-negative, high risk early breast cancer.

The International monarchE trial, is an open-label, randomized, Phase III study, which included 5637 patients, who were pre- and postmenopausal, with HR-positive, HER2-negative early breast cancer, and with clinical and/or pathologic risk factors that rendered them at high risk for relapse. The researchers defined high risk as the presence of four or more positive axillary lymph nodes, or 1-3 three positive axillary lymph nodes, with either a tumor size of 5 cm or more, histologic Grade 3, or centrally tested high proliferation rate (Ki-67 of 20% or more). Following completion of primary therapy which included both adjuvant and neoadjuvant chemotherapy and radiotherapy, patients were randomly assigned (1:1) to VERZENIO® 150 mg orally twice daily for 2 years plus 5 to 10 years of physicians choice of endocrine therapy as clinically indicated (N=2808), or endocrine therapy alone (N=2829). The median patient age was 51 years, about 43% of the patients were premenopausal, and 95% of patients had prior chemotherapy. Approximately 60% of patients had 4 or more positive lymph nodes. The Primary endpoint was Invasive Disease Free Survival (IDFS), and Secondary end points included distant Relapse Free Survival, Overall Survival, and safety. At a preplanned interim analysis, the addition of VERZENIO® to endocrine therapy resulted in a 25% reduction in the risk of developing a Invasive Disease Free Survival (IDFS) event, relative to endocrine therapy alone. Following the positive interim analysis, patients continued to be followed for IDFS, distant recurrence, and Overall Survival. The current study describes outcomes following an extended follow up of this trial, with a median follow up time of 19 months.

At the time of this primary outcome analysis, 1,437 patients (25.5%) had completed the two-year treatment period and 3,281 patients (58.2%) were in the two-year treatment period. The combination of VERZENIO® plus endocrine therapy continued to demonstrate superior Invasive Disease Free Survival (IDFS) compared to endocrine therapy alone, with a 28.7% reduction in the risk of developing invasive disease (P=0.0009; HR=0.713). The 2-year IDFS in the combination group was 92.3% and 89.3% in the endocrine therapy alone treatment group. This IDFS benefit with VERZENIO® was consistently noted in all prespecified subgroups. Further, there was an improvement in the 2-year distant Relapse Free Survival rate among patients who received the combination treatment compared with those who received endocrine therapy alone (93.8% versus 90.8%, respectively). Overall Survival data was immature at the time of analysis.

The researchers also evaluated outcomes among 2,498 patients with centrally assessed high tumor Ki-67 status. Among patients in this cohort, those who received the combination treatment had a 30.9% decreased risk of invasive disease compared with those who received endocrine therapy alone (P=0.01; HR=0.691) and the 2-year IDFS rates in the combination group and the endocrine therapy alone group were 91.6% and 87.1%, respectively. There were no new safety signals observed with VERZENIO®.

It was concluded that at the time of this primary outcome analysis, VERZENIO® combined with endocrine therapy continued to demonstrate a clinically meaningful improvement in Invasive Disease Free Survival, among patients with HR-positive, HER2-negative, node-positive, high risk, early breast cancer.

Primary outcome analysis of invasive disease-free survival for monarchE: abemaciclib combined with adjuvant endocrine therapy for high risk early breast cancer. O’Shaughnessy JA, Johnston S, Harbeck N, et al. Presented at the 2020 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, December 8-11. Abstract. GS1-01.

Chemotherapy Can Be Spared in Majority of Postmenopausal Women with Node Positive Early Breast Cancer

SUMMARY: Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the US and about 1 in 8 women (13%) will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Approximately 276,480 new cases of invasive female breast cancer were diagnosed in 2020 and about 42,170 women died of the disease. Approximately 25% of patients with Hormone Receptor (HR)-positive, HER2-negative early breast cancer have metastatic lymph node involvement and two third of these patients are postmenopausal. Majority of these patients currently receive chemotherapy. The Oncotype DX breast cancer assay, is a multigene genomic test that analyzes the activity of a group of 21 genes and is able to predict the risk of breast cancer recurrence and likelihood of benefit from systemic chemotherapy, following surgery, in women with early stage breast cancer. Chemotherapy recommendations for early stage, HR-positive, HER-negative, early stage breast cancer patients, are often made based on tumor size, grade, ImmunoHistoChemical (IHC) markers such as Ki-67, nodal status and Oncotype DX Recurrence Score (RS) assay.

In the ground-breaking TAILORx (Trial Assigning Individualized Options for Treatment) study which enrolled 10,273 patients with HR-positive, HER2-negative, axillary node-negative breast cancer, patients were divided into three groups based on their Recurrence Score. Patient with Intermediate Recurrence Score of 11-25 were randomly assigned to receive endocrine therapy alone or endocrine therapy and adjuvant chemotherapy. There was no benefit noted from adding chemotherapy to endocrine therapy, for women older than 50 years in this Intermediate RS group, suggesting that a significant percentage of women with node-negative breast cancer do not achieve substantial benefit from chemotherapy. Whether the results of TAILORx can be extrapolated to women with node-positive breast cancer has remained unclear. It is estimated that approximately 85% of women with node-positive disease have Recurrence Score results of 0-25.

The RxPONDER trial was designed to determine the benefit of chemotherapy, in patients who had a Recurrence Score of 0-25. This trial did not include pre and postmenopausal women with Recurrence Score results 26-100 based on previously published studies suggesting that this patient group benefited from chemotherapy. SWOG S1007 (RxPONDER) is an multicenter, international, prospective, randomized, Phase III trial, in which patients with HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer with 1-3 positive axillary lymph nodes were included, to determine which patients would benefit from chemotherapy and which patients could safely avoid it. In this study, a total of 5083 HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer patients with 1-3 positive lymph nodes and Oncotype DX Recurrence Score of less than 25 were randomly assigned 1:1 to receive chemotherapy plus endocrine therapy or endocrine therapy alone. Approximately two-thirds of patients were postmenopausal and one-third were premenopausal and had no contraindications to taxane and/or anthracycline based chemotherapy. Patients were stratified by Recurrence Score (0-13 versus 14-25), menopausal status, and axillary nodal dissection versus sentinel node biopsy. The Primary endpoint was Invasive Disease Free Survival (IDFS), defined as local, regional, or distant recurrence, any second invasive cancer, or death from any cause, and whether the effect depended on the Recurrence Score. Secondary endpoints included Overall Survival (OS).

At a median follow up of 5.1 years, there was no association noted between Recurrence Score (RS) values and chemotherapy benefit for the entire study population (P=0.30). However, a prespecified analysis did show a significant association between chemotherapy benefit and menopausal status. Premenopausal women (N=1665) with an RS between 0 and 25 had an IDFS benefit with the addition of chemotherapy to endocrine therapy compared with endocrine therapy alone (94.2% versus 89%, HR=0.54; P=0.0004). This absolute 5.2% benefit in the premenopausal subset was highly significant. The relative risk reduction with the addition of chemotherapy to endocrine therapy for the two RS risk groups 0-13 and 14-25 was consistent in the premenopausal population, with an overall Hazard Ratio of 0.54. The absolute benefit was numerically higher in those with RS 14-25. Consistent benefit was again noted regardless of number of involved lymph nodes, although there was slight variation in the absolute benefit. Postmenopausal women (N=3350) did not benefit with the addition of chemotherapy to endocrine therapy when compared endocrine therapy alone, regardless of Recurrence Score (91.9% versus 91.6%, HR=0.97; P=0.82). Chemotherapy also improved Overall Survival in the premenopausal cohort, although the follow up is limited.

It was concluded from this practice-changing outcomes that postmenopausal women with HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer with 1-3 positive nodes and Oncotype DX Recurrence Score of 25 or less can safely avoid receiving adjuvant chemotherapy, whereas premenopausal patients with 1-3 positive nodes and a Recurrence Score of 25 or less should consider adjuvant chemotherapy. The authors added that these finding demonstrate that the great majority of postmenopausal women can be spared unnecessary chemotherapy and receive only endocrine therapy.

First results from a phase III randomized clinical trial of standard adjuvant endocrine therapy ± chemotherapy in patients with 1-3 positive nodes, hormone receptor-positive and HER2-negative breast cancer with recurrence scores ≤ 25: SWOG S1007 (RxPONDER). Kalinsky K, Barlow WE, Meric-Bernstam F, et al. 2020 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Presented December 10, 2020. Abstract GS3-00.

FDA Approves MARGENZA® for HER2 Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer

SUMMARY: Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the US and about 1 in 8 women (13%) will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Approximately 276,480 new cases of invasive female breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2020 and about 42,170 women will die of the disease. The HER or erbB family of receptors consist of HER1, HER2, HER3 and HER4. Approximately 15-20% of invasive breast cancers overexpress HER2/neu oncogene, which is a negative predictor of outcomes without systemic therapy. Patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer are often treated with anti-HER2 targeted therapy along with chemotherapy, irrespective of hormone receptor status, and this has resulted in significantly improved treatment outcomes. HER2 oncoprotein is also expressed by tumor cells in gastroesophageal and other solid tumors.

HER2-targeted therapies include HERCEPTIN® (Trastuzumab), TYKERB® (Lapatinib), PERJETA® (Pertuzumab) and KADCYLA® (Ado-Trastuzumab Emtansine). Dual HER2 blockade with HERCEPTIN® and PERJETA®, given along with chemotherapy (with or without endocrine therapy), as first line treatment, in HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer patients, was shown to significantly improve Progression Free Survival (PFS) as well as Overall Survival (OS). The superior benefit with dual HER2 blockade has been attributed to differing mechanisms of action and synergistic interaction between HER2 targeted therapies. Patients progressing on Dual HER2 blockade often receive KADCYLA® which results in an Objective Response Rate (ORR) of 44% and a median PFS of 9.6 months, when administered after HERCEPTIN® and a taxane. There is however no standard treatment option for this patient population following progression on KADCYLA®.MOA-of-MARGENZA

MARGENZA® (Margetuximab-cmkb) is an Fc-engineered, monoclonal antibody that binds to the HER2 oncoprotein with high specificity and affinity and inhibits tumor cell proliferation, and survival by mediating Antibody-Dependent Cellular Cytotoxicity (ADCC). It is postulated that the Fab portion of MARGENZA® has the same specificity and affinity to HER2 oncoprotein as Trastuzumab, with similar ability to disrupt signaling. However, the modified Fc region of MARGENZA® which binds Fc receptor expressing cells such as immune cells, has increased affinity for activating Fc receptor FCGR3A (CD16A) and decreases affinity for inhibitory Fc receptor FCGR2B (CD32B). These changes lead to greater ADCC and Natural Killer cell activation.

The SOPHIA study is a randomized, multicenter, open-label Phase III clinical trial, in which MARGENZA® plus chemotherapy was compared to Trastuzumab plus chemotherapy in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer, who have previously been treated with anti-HER2-targeted therapies. This study enrolled 536 patients who were randomized 1:1 to receive either MARGENZA® 15 mg/kg IV every three weeks (N=266) or Trastuzumab 6 mg/kg (or 8 mg/kg for loading dose) IV every three weeks (N=270), in combination with either Capecitabine, Eribulin, Gemcitabine or Vinorelbine, given at the standard doses. All study patients had previously received Trastuzumab, all but one patient had previously received PERJETA® (Pertuzumab), and 91% of patients had previously received KADCYLA®. Patients were stratified by choice of chemotherapy, number of lines of therapy in the metastatic setting and number of metastatic sites. The dual Primary endpoints of the study were Progression Free Survival (PFS) by Blinded Independent Central Review (BICR) and Overall Survival (OS). Additional efficacy outcome measures included Objective Response Rate (ORR) and Duration of Response (DOR) assessed by BICR.

This study demonstrated a statistically significant 24% reduction in the risk of disease progression or death with MARGENZA® plus chemotherapy compared with Trastuzumab plus chemotherapy (HR= 0.76; P=0.033), with a median PFS of 5.8 months versus 4.9 months respectively. Treatment benefit was more pronounced in patients with CD16A genotypes containing a 158F allele (median PFS 6.9 versus 5.1 months, HR=0.68; P=0.005). The ORR for MARGENZA® plus chemotherapy was 22%, with a median Duration of Response of 6.1 months, compared to an ORR of 16% and median Duration of Response of 6.0 months for Trastuzumab plus chemotherapy. The final Overall Survival (OS) analysis is expected in the second half of 2021. The most common adverse drug reactions occurring in more than 10% of patients receiving MARGENZA® plus chemotherapy included fatigue/asthenia, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, pyrexia, alopecia, abdominal pain, peripheral neuropathy, arthralgia/myalgia, cough, dyspnea, infusion-related reactions, palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia, and extremity pain.

It was concluded that MARGENZA® in combination with chemotherapy significantly improved PFS, compared to Trastuzumab plus chemotherapy, in pretreated patients with HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer. MARGENZA® along with chemotherapy represents the newest treatment option for patients who have progressed on available HER2-directed therapies.

SOPHIA primary analysis: A phase 3 study of margetuximab + chemotherapy (C) versus trastuzumab + C in patients with HER2+ metastatic breast cancer after prior anti-HER2 therapies. Rugo HS, Im SA, Shaw Wright GL, et al. J Clin Oncol 37, 2019 (suppl; abstr 1000)

SABCS 2020: Ongoing Benefit with VERZENIO® in High Risk Early Stage Breast Cancer

SUMMARY: Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the US and about 1 in 8 women 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Approximately 279,100 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2020 and about 42,690 individuals will die of the disease largely due to metastatic recurrence. About 70% of breast tumors express Estrogen Receptors and/or Progesterone Receptors, and Hormone Receptor (HR)-positive/HER2-negative breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed molecular subtype. Majority of these patients are diagnosed with early stage disease and are often cured with a combination of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy. However approximately 20% of patients will experience local recurrence or distant relapse during the first 10 years of treatment. This may be more relevant for those with high risk disease, among whom the risk of recurrence is even greater during the first 2 years while on adjuvant endocrine therapy, due to primary endocrine resistance. More than 75% of the early recurrences are seen at distant sites.

Cyclin Dependent Kinases (CDKs) play a very important role to facilitate orderly and controlled progression of the cell cycle. Genetic alterations in these kinases and their regulatory proteins have been implicated in various malignancies. CDK 4 and 6 phosphorylate RetinoBlastoma protein (RB), and initiate transition from the G1 phase to the S phase of the cell cycle. RetinoBlastoma protein has antiproliferative and tumor-suppressor activity and phosphorylation of RB protein nullifies its beneficial activities. CDK4 and CDK6 are activated in hormone receptor positive breast cancer, promoting breast cancer cell proliferation. Further, there is evidence to suggest that endocrine resistant breast cancer cell lines depend on CDK4 for cell proliferation. The understanding of the role of Cyclin Dependent Kinases in the cell cycle, has paved the way for the development of CDK inhibitors.Cell-Cycle-Inhibition-by-ABEMACICLIB-A-CDK4-and-CDK6-Inhibitor

VERZENIO® (Abemaciclib) is an oral, selective inhibitor of CDK4 and CDK6 kinase activity, and prevents the phosphorylation and subsequent inactivation of the Rb tumor suppressor protein, thereby inducing G1 cell cycle arrest and inhibition of cell proliferation. VERZENIO® is structurally distinct from other CDK 4 and 6 inhibitors (such as Ribociclib and Palbociclib) and is 14 times more potent against cyclin D1/CDK 4 and cyclin D3/CDK 6, in enzymatic assays, but potentially less toxic than earlier pan-CDK inhibitors. At higher doses, only VERZENIO® causes significant cancer cell death, compared with other CDK4/6 inhibitors, suggesting that this drug may be affecting proteins, other than CDK4/6. Additionally, preclinical studies have demonstrated that VERZENIO® may have additional therapeutic benefits for a subset of tumors that are unresponsive to treatment or have grown resistant to other CDK4/6 inhibitors. It has also been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier.

VERZENIO® is presently approved by the FDA as monotherapy as well as in combination with endocrine therapy for patients with HR-positive, HER2- negative advanced breast cancer. The addition of VERZENIO® to FASLODEX® resulted in a statistically significant improvement in Overall Survival among patients with HR-positive, HER2-negative advanced breast cancer, who had progressed on prior endocrine therapy. The goal of monarchE was to evaluate the additional benefit of adding a CDK4/6 inhibitor to endocrine therapy in the adjuvant setting, for patients with HR-positive, HER2-negative, high risk early breast cancer.

The International monarchE trial, is an open-label, randomized, Phase III study, which included 5637 patients, who were pre- and postmenopausal, with HR-positive, HER2-negative early breast cancer, and with clinical and/or pathologic risk factors that rendered them at high risk for relapse. The researchers defined high risk as the presence of four or more positive axillary lymph nodes, or 1-3 three positive axillary lymph nodes, with either a tumor size of 5 cm or more, histologic Grade 3, or centrally tested high proliferation rate (Ki-67 of 20% or more). Following completion of primary therapy which included both adjuvant and neoadjuvant chemotherapy and radiotherapy, patients were randomly assigned (1:1) to VERZENIO® 150 mg orally twice daily for 2 years plus 5 to 10 years of physicians choice of endocrine therapy as clinically indicated (N=2808), or endocrine therapy alone (N=2829). The median patient age was 51 years, about 43% of the patients were premenopausal, and 95% of patients had prior chemotherapy. Approximately 60% of patients had 4 or more positive lymph nodes. The Primary endpoint was Invasive Disease Free Survival (IDFS), and Secondary end points included distant Relapse Free Survival, Overall Survival, and safety. At a preplanned interim analysis, the addition of VERZENIO® to endocrine therapy resulted in a 25% reduction in the risk of developing a Invasive Disease Free Survival (IDFS) event, relative to endocrine therapy alone. Following the positive interim analysis, patients continued to be followed for IDFS, distant recurrence, and Overall Survival. The current study describes outcomes following an extended follow up of this trial, with a median follow up time of 19 months.

At the time of this primary outcome analysis, 1,437 patients (25.5%) had completed the two-year treatment period and 3,281 patients (58.2%) were in the two-year treatment period. The combination of VERZENIO® plus endocrine therapy continued to demonstrate superior Invasive Disease Free Survival (IDFS) compared to endocrine therapy alone, with a 28.7% reduction in the risk of developing invasive disease (P=0.0009; HR=0.713). The 2-year IDFS in the combination group was 92.3% and 89.3% in the endocrine therapy alone treatment group. This IDFS benefit with VERZENIO® was consistently noted in all prespecified subgroups. Further, there was an improvement in the 2-year distant Relapse Free Survival rate among patients who received the combination treatment compared with those who received endocrine therapy alone (93.8% versus 90.8%, respectively). Overall Survival data was immature at the time of analysis.

The researchers also evaluated outcomes among 2,498 patients with centrally assessed high tumor Ki-67 status. Among patients in this cohort, those who received the combination treatment had a 30.9% decreased risk of invasive disease compared with those who received endocrine therapy alone (P=0.01; HR=0.691) and the 2-year IDFS rates in the combination group and the endocrine therapy alone group were 91.6% and 87.1%, respectively. There were no new safety signals observed with VERZENIO®.

It was concluded that at the time of this primary outcome analysis, VERZENIO® combined with endocrine therapy continued to demonstrate a clinically meaningful improvement in Invasive Disease Free Survival, among patients with HR-positive, HER2-negative, node-positive, high risk, early breast cancer.

Primary outcome analysis of invasive disease-free survival for monarchE: abemaciclib combined with adjuvant endocrine therapy for high risk early breast cancer. O’Shaughnessy JA, Johnston S, Harbeck N, et al. Presented at the 2020 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, December 8-11. Abstract. GS1-01.

Adjuvant Trastuzumab Monotherapy for Older Patients with HER-2 Positive Breast Cancer

SUMMARY: Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the US and about 1 in 8 women (13%) will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Approximately 276,480 new cases of invasive female breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2020 and about 42,170 women will die of the disease. Approximately 15-20% of invasive breast cancers overexpress HER2/neu oncogene, which is a negative predictor of outcomes without systemic therapy. Trastuzumab is a humanized monoclonal antibody targeting HER2. Adjuvant and neoadjuvant chemotherapy given along with Trastuzumab reduces the risk of disease recurrence and death, among patients with HER2-positive, early stage as well as advanced metastatic breast cancer. Since the approval of Trastuzumab, several other HER2-targeted therapies have become available. The duration of adjuvant Trastuzumab therapy has been 12 months and this length of treatment was empirically adopted from the pivotal registration trials.

Elderly patients with HER-2 positive breast cancer may not be candidates for adjuvant chemotherapy. Single agent Trastuzumab used as adjuvant treatment without chemotherapy could be of potential benefit, avoiding chemotherapy-induced toxicities. However, the benefit of single agent Trastuzumab has not been investigated in patients older than 70 years. The present study was designed to investigate the efficacy of Trastuzumab monotherapy, compared with Trastuzumab in combination with chemotherapy, incidence of Adverse Events, as well as Quality of Life, in terms of the noninferiority criterion.

RESPECT Study is a multicenter, open-label, randomized controlled, prospective, adjuvant, noninferiority trial, in which Trastuzumab monotherapy was compared with Trastuzumab plus chemotherapy, among patients older than 70 years, with HER-2 positive breast cancer. A total of 275 patients, aged 70-80 years with surgically treated HER-2 positive invasive breast cancer, were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive either Trastuzumab monotherapy (N=137) or Trastuzumab plus chemotherapy (N=138). Trastuzumab plus chemotherapy treatment consisted of a loading dose of Trastuzumab at 8 mg/kg and a maintenance dose of 6 mg/kg every 3 weeks for 1 year. Chemotherapy regimens consisted of either Paclitaxel 80 mg/m2 IV weekly for 12 weeks, Docetaxel 75 mg/m2 IV every 3 weeks for 4 cycles, Doxorubicin 60 mg/m2 IV and Cyclophosphamide 600 mg/m2 IV (AC) every 3 weeks for 4 cycles, Epirubicin 90 mg/m2 IV and Cyclophosphamide 600 mg/m2 IV (EC) every 3 weeks for 4 cycles, Cyclophosphamide 75-100 mg orally, Methotrexate 40 mg/m2, and 5-fluorouracil 500-600 mg/m2 IV (CMF) for 6 cycles, Docetaxel 75 mg/m2 IV and Cyclophosphamide 600 mg/m2 IV (TC) every 3 weeks for 4 cycles or Docetaxel 60-75 mg/m2 IV, Carboplatin AUC 5-6 mg/ml/min IV along with Trastuzumab IV (TCH) every 3 weeks for 6 cycles. Patients treated with Trastuzumab monotherapy received similar doses of loading and maintenance Trastuzumab. Patients were stratified based on Performance Status, Hormone Receptor status and pathologic nodal status. Approximately 44% of patients had Stage I disease, 42% had Stage IIA, 13% had IIB, and 1% had IIIA disease. Approximately 14% of patients received Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators such as Tamoxifen, and about 69% of patients received Aromatase Inhibitors. The Primary endpoint was Disease Free Survival (DFS) with assessment of prespecified Hazard Ratio (HR) and Restricted Mean Survival Time (RMST) for each treatment group. (RMST has been advocated as an alternative or a supplement to the Hazard Ratio for reporting the effect of an intervention in a randomized clinical trial, and is a measure of average survival from time 0 to a specified time point, and may be estimated as the area under the KM curve up to that point. RMST measure is especially informative for older patient populations in which Quality of Life issues are more important). Secondary endpoints included Overall Survival (OS), Relapse-Free Survival (RFS), Adverse Events (AEs) and Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL). The median follow up time was 4.1 years.

The 3-year DFS was 89.5% with Trastuzumab monotherapy versus 93.8% with Trastuzumab plus chemotherapy (HR=1.36; P=0.51) and this study failed to meet the prespecified criterion for noninferiority. However, a preplanned analysis of DFS according to RMST was -0.39 months, suggesting that only 0.39 months of DFS were lost within 3 years, by avoiding chemotherapy. The 3-year RFS was 92.4% with Trastuzumab monotherapy versus 95.3% with Trastuzumab plus chemotherapy (HR=1.33) and the difference in RMST for RFS between treatment groups at 3 years was −0.41 months (P=0.53). There were significant differences noted in clinically meaningful HRQoL deterioration rate at 2 months (31% for Trastuzumab monotherapy versus 48% for Trastuzumab plus chemotherapy; P=.016) and at 1 year (19% versus 38%; P=0.009). Breast cancer-specific survival at 3 years was 99.2% with Trastuzumab monotherapy versus 99.2% with Trastuzumab plus chemotherapy (HR=0.20; P=0.14).

The authors concluded that even though the Primary endpoint of noninferiority for Trastuzumab monotherapy was not met, the Restricted Mean Survival Time revealed that the observed loss of survival without chemotherapy was less than 1 month at 3 years, and Health-Related Quality of Life was better, with lower toxicities. Therefore, Trastuzumab monotherapy can be considered as a reasonable adjuvant therapy option for a select group of elderly patients with favorable outcomes.

Randomized Controlled Trial of Trastuzumab With or Without Chemotherapy for HER2-Positive Early Breast Cancer in Older Patients. Sawaki M, Taira N, Uemura Y, et al. J Clin Oncol. 2020;38:3743-3752.

FDA Approves KEYTRUDA® Plus Chemotherapy for Triple Negative Breast Cancer

SUMMARY: The FDA on November 13, 2020, granted accelerated approval to KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab) in combination with chemotherapy for the treatment of patients with locally recurrent, unresectable or metastatic, Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), whose tumors express PD-L1 (Combined Positive Score-CPS 10 or more) as determined by an FDA approved test. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the US and about 1 in 8 women (13%) will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Approximately 276,480 new cases of invasive female breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2020 and about 42,170 women will die of the disease. Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) is a heterogeneous, molecularly diverse group of breast cancers and are ER (Estrogen Receptor), PR (Progesterone Receptor) and HER2 (Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-2) negative. TNBC accounts for 15-20% of invasive breast cancers, with a higher incidence noted in young patients and African American females. It is usually aggressive, and tumors tend to be high grade, and patients with TNBC are at a higher risk of both local and distant recurrence and often develop visceral metastases. Those with metastatic disease have one of the worst prognoses of all cancers with a median Overall Survival of 13 months. The majority of patients with TNBC who develop metastatic disease do so within the first 3 years after diagnosis, whereas those without recurrence during this period of time have survival rates, similar to those with ER-positive breast cancers. The lack of known recurrent oncogenic drivers in patients with metastatic TNBC, presents a major therapeutic challenge. Overall survival among patients with pretreated metastatic TNBC has not changed over the past 2 decades and standard chemotherapy is associated with low response rates of 10-15% and a Progression Free Survival (PFS) of only 2-3 months.Unleashing-T-Cell-Function-with-Immune-Checkpoint-Inhibitors

KEYTRUDA® is a fully humanized, Immunoglobulin G4, anti-PD-1, monoclonal antibody, that binds to the PD-1 receptor and blocks its interaction with ligands PD-L1 and PD-L2. It thereby reverses the PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response, and unleashes the tumor-specific effector T cells. The rationale for combining chemotherapy with immunotherapy is that cytotoxic chemotherapy releases tumor-specific antigens, and immune checkpoint inhibitors such as KEYTRUDA® when given along with chemotherapy can enhance endogenous anticancer immunity. Single agent KEYTRUDA® in metastatic TNBC demonstrated durable antitumor activity in several studies, with Objective Response Rates (ORRs) ranging from 10% to 21% and improved clinical responses in patients with higher PD-L1 expression. When given along with chemotherapy as a neoadjuvant treatment for patients with high-risk, early-stage TNBC, KEYTRUDA® combination achieved Pathological Complete Response rate of 65%, regardless of PD-L1 expression. Based on this data, KEYTRUDA® in combination with chemotherapy was studied, for first-line treatment of TNBC.

KEYNOTE-355 is a randomized, double-blind, Phase III study, which evaluated the benefit of KEYTRUDA® in combination with one of the three different chemotherapy regimens, nab-Paclitaxel, Paclitaxel, or the non-taxane containing Gemzar/Carboplatin, versus placebo plus one of the three chemotherapy regimens, in patients with previously untreated or locally recurrent inoperable metastatic TNBC. In this study, 847 patients were randomized 2:1 to receive either KEYTRUDA® 200 mg IV on day 1 of each 21-day cycle along with either nab-paclitaxel 100 mg/m2 IV on days 1, 8 and 15 of each 28-day cycle, Paclitaxel 90 mg/m2 IV on days 1, 8 and 15 of each 28-day cycle, or Gemcitabine 1000 mg/m2 IV plus Carboplatin AUC 2, IV on days 1 and 8 of each 21-day cycle (N= 566) or placebo along with one of the three chemotherapy regimens (N= 281). This study was not designed to compare the efficacy of the different chemotherapy regimens. Treatment was continued until disease progression. Patients were stratified by chemotherapy, PD-L1 tumor expression (CPS of 1 or higher versus CPS of less than 1), and prior treatment with the same class of neoadjuvant/adjuvant chemotherapy (Yes versus No). The baseline characteristics of treatment groups were well-balanced. The co-Primary end points of the trial were Progression Free Survival (PFS) and Overall Survival (OS) in patients with PD-L1-positive tumors, and in all patients. Secondary end points were Objective Response Rate (ORR), Duration of Response, Disease Control Rate, and Safety. The median follow up for patients assigned to receive KEYTRUDA® was 17.5 months and 15.5 months for the placebo group. The authors reported the results from an interim analysis conducted by an Independent Data Monitoring Committee (IDMC).

KEYTRUDA® in combination with chemotherapy, significantly improved PFS in patients with CPS (Combined Positive Score) of 10 or greater. The median PFS was 9.7 months for KEYTRUDA® plus chemotherapy, compared with 5.6 months for placebo plus chemotherapy (HR=0.65, P=0.0012). This represented a 35% reduction in the risk of disease progression. Among patients with CPS of 1 or greater, the median PFS was 7.6 months for KEYTRUDA® plus chemotherapy, compared with 5.6 months for the placebo plus chemotherapy arm (HR= 0.74; P=0.0014). This however based on prespecified statistical criteria, was not considered statistically significant. Among the entire Intention-To-Treat (ITT) population, the median PFS was 7.5 months in the KEYTRUDA® plus chemotherapy group, compared with 5.6 months for chemotherapy plus placebo group (HR=0.82). Formal statistical significance was not tested in the ITT population. Overall Survival data are pending. Adverse Events (AEs) were similar in both treatment groups, although immune-related AEs occurred at a higher incidence in the KEYTRUDA® arm.

It was concluded that KEYTRUDA® in combination with several chemotherapy regimens, showed a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in PFS, compared with chemotherapy alone, in patients with previously untreated locally recurrent, inoperable or metastatic TNBC, whose tumors expressed PD-L1 with a Combined Positive Score (CPS) of 10 or more. This data may be particularly relevant for patients who may have received a taxane in the adjuvant setting within a year, and could be more appropriately treated with a non-taxane regimen, in combination with KEYTRUDA®.

KEYNOTE-355: Randomized, double-blind, phase III study of pembrolizumab + chemotherapy versus placebo + chemotherapy for previously untreated locally recurrent inoperable or metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. Cortes J, Cescon DW, Rugo HS. et al. J Clin Oncol 38: 2020 (suppl; abstr 1000)

NERLYNX® Combination Superior to TYKERB® Combination in Advanced HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

SUMMARY: Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the US and about 1 in 8 women (13%) will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Approximately 276,480 new cases of invasive female breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2020 and about 42,170 women will die of the disease. The HER or erbB family of receptors consist of HER1, HER2, HER3 and HER4. Approximately 15-20% of invasive breast cancers overexpress HER2/neu oncogene, which is a negative predictor of outcomes without systemic therapy. Patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer are often treated with anti-HER2 targeted therapy along with chemotherapy, irrespective of hormone receptor status, and this has resulted in significantly improved treatment outcomes.HER2-Directed-Therapy

NERLYNX® (Neratinib) is a potent, irreversible, oral Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor, of HER1, HER2 and HER4 (pan-HER inhibitor). NERLYNX® interacts with the catalytic domain of HER1, HER2, and HER4 and blocks their downstream signaling pathways, resulting in decreased cell proliferation and increased cell death. Clinical data has suggested that NERLYNX® has significant activity in suppressing HER-mediated tumor growth and is able to overcome tumor escape mechanisms experienced with current HER2-targeted and chemotherapeutic agents. It has been well known that hormone receptor positive breast cancer patients, who are also HER2-positive, have relative resistance to hormone therapy. Preclinical models had suggested that the addition of NERLYNX® could improve responses in ER positive, HER2-positive breast cancer patients. Further, NERLYNX® has clinical activity in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. NERLYNX® is the first TKI approved by the FDA, shown to reduce the risk for disease recurrence, in patients with early stage HER2-positive breast cancer. NERLYNX® when given for 12 months after chemotherapy and HERCEPTIN®-based adjuvant therapy, to women with HER2-positive breast cancer, significantly reduced the proportion of clinically relevant breast cancer relapses that might lead to death, such as distant and locoregional recurrences outside the preserved breast.

TYKERB® (Lapatinib) is a Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor of HER2 and EGFR, and in a previously published Phase III study, a combination of TYKERB® plus XELODA® (Capecitabine) was found to be superior to XELODA® alone in women with HER2-positive advanced breast cancer, that has progressed after treatment with regimens that included an Anthracycline, a Taxane, and HERCEPTIN®. (N Engl J Med 2006; 355:2733-2743)

The NALA trial was designed to compare NERLYNX® plus XELODA® versus TYKERB® plus XELODA® in patients with heavily pretreated Stage IV HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer, including those with asymptomatic or stable (treated or untreated) CNS metastases. In this multinational, randomized, active-controlled, Phase III study, 621 patients (N = 621) with metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer who received two or more prior anti-HER2 based regimens in the metastatic setting were randomly assigned in a 1:1 to receive NERLYNX® 240 mg given orally once daily on days 1-21 along with XELODA® 750 mg/m2 given orally twice daily on days 1-14 for each 21-day cycle (N=307) or TYKERB® 1250 mg given orally once daily on days 1-21 along with XELODA® 1000 mg/m2 given orally twice daily on days 1-14 for each 21-day cycle (N=314). Approximately 85% of patients had visceral metastases, and about 30% had received at least three anti-HER2 therapies. Patients in the NERLYNX® group also received antidiarrheal prophylaxis with Loperamide. Patients were treated until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. The Co-Primary endpoints were Progression Free Survival (PFS) and Overall Survival (OS). Secondary endpoints included Objective Response Rate (ORR) and Duration of Response, Clinical Benefit Rate (CBR), time to intervention for symptomatic metastatic Central Nervous System (CNS) disease and Safety.

At a median follow up of 29.9 months, treatment with NERLYNX® with XELODA® significantly improved the median PFS, compared to those receiving TYKERB® with XELODA® (HR=0.76; P=0.006). This represented a 24% reduction in the risk of disease progression or death for those receiving a combination of NERLYNX® and XELODA®. The PFS rate at 12 months was 29% versus 15% respectively. The median OS was 21 months for patients receiving NERLYNX® and XELODA® compared to 18.7 months for those receiving TYKERB® and XELODA® (HR=0.88; P=0.20) and this was not statistically significant. The ORR was numerically higher with NERLYNX® and XELODA® combination in patients with measurable disease (32.8% versus 26.7%), and there was a statistically significant improvement in the Clinical Benefit Rate (45% versus 36%; P=0.03). The median Duration of Response was 8.5 versus 5.6 months respectively (HR=0.50; P=0.0004), favoring the NERLYNX® combination. The time to intervention for symptomatic CNS disease was significantly delayed with NERLYNX® combination versus TYKERB® combination, with an overall cumulative incidence of 22.8% versus 29.2% respectively (P= 0.043). The most common toxicities of any grade in the study population were diarrhea, nausea, palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia syndrome, and vomiting. Treatment related toxicities were similar between arms, but there was a higher rate of Grade 3 diarrhea with the NERLYNX® combination (24% versus 13% respectively).

It was concluded from this study that a combination of NERLYNX® and XELODA® significantly improved Progression Free Survival, with a trend towards improved Overall Survival, and also resulted in a delayed time to intervention for symptomatic CNS disease, among patients with heavily pretreated advanced HER2-positive breast cancer. This is the first study to demonstrate superiority of one HER2-directed Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor over another, in HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer.

Neratinib Plus Capecitabine Versus Lapatinib Plus Capecitabine in HER2-Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer Previously Treated With 2 or More HER2-Directed Regimens: Phase III NALA Trial. Saura C, Oliveira M, Y Feng Y-H, et al. for the NALA Investigators. J Clin Oncol. 2020;38:3138-3149.

DCIS and Risk of Death from Breast Cancer

SUMMARY: Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the US and about 1 in 8 women (12%) will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Approximately 279,100 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2020 and about 42,690 individuals will die of the disease largely due to metastatic recurrence. Carcinoma in situ of the breast also known as Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) is defined as a malignant proliferation of ductal epithelial cells that are confined to the milk ducts without invasion of the basement membrane, and is a precursor lesion to invasive carcinoma. DCIS accounts for approximately 25% of all newly diagnosed breast cancers. Patients with small, screening-detected lesions, are often treated with breast-conserving surgery (to prevent the development of invasive breast cancer), followed by adjuvant radiation and hormonal therapy, although neither of the latter two interventions have been shown to improve survival outcomes. As such, a significant number of patients are over treated. DCIS in itself is not life-threatening but can potentially progress to invasive breast cancer. The two important goals of DCIS treatment therefore are, to prevent invasive ipsilateral cancer recurrence and to prevent death from breast cancer. There remains a large unmet need, to distinguish relatively benign DCIS from DCIS that will develop into invasive breast cancer.DCIS

In a previously published meta-analysis (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2019;28:835-845), researchers identified six prognostic factors that were statistically significant and were associated with a 36% to 84% increase in the relative risk of recurrence of invasive disease after a DCIS diagnosis. These six factors included-

1) African American race (43% higher risk)
2) Premenopausal status (59% higher risk)bre
3) Detection by palpation (84% higher risk)
4) Positive margins (63% higher risk)
5) High histologic grade (36% higher risk)
6) High p16 expression (51% higher risk).

This present large cohort study was conducted to determine the risk of death from breast cancer, following diagnosis and treatment of DCIS, compared with the mortality risk among cancer-free women, in the general population. This study included a total of 144,524 women diagnosed with first primary DCIS between 1995 and 2014, from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registries database. Patients with DCIS with microinvasion, Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS), nonepithelial histological presentations, Paget disease of the nipple, diffuse DCIS, unknown laterality, no surgical intervention on the primary tumor, DCIS diagnosis in women younger than 25 years or aged 80 years or older, were all excluded. Patients with DCIS underwent surgical treatment, and approximately half of these patients also received radiotherapy. These patients were followed from the date of DCIS diagnosis until death from breast cancer, or date of last follow up. These patients were compared with women in the general population without a diagnosis of breast cancer (control group). The mean age at diagnosis was 57.4 years. The Primary outcome was death from breast cancer. Standardized Mortality Ratios (SMR) were estimated by comparing deaths from breast cancer among women diagnosed with DCIS, with expected deaths from breast cancer among women in the general population who did not have cancer.

At a mean follow up period of 9.2 years, the incidence of ipsilateral invasive recurrence events was 3.1%, resulting in a 20-year actuarial risk of 13.9%. There was a 3.8% incidence of contralateral invasive breast cancer events during this follow up period, resulting in a 20-year actuarial risk of 11.3%. The 20-year actuarial risk of breast cancer death among women with DCIS was 3.3%.

The Standardized Mortality Ratio (SMR) for death from breast cancer given a diagnosis of DCIS was 3.36, but varied based on age and race. The SMR for women younger than 40 years was much higher at 11.95, whereas the SMR for women aged 40 to 49 years was 4.15. The SMR for White women was 3.03, for Black women was 7.56, and for East Asian women was 1.89. The SMR for Black women diagnosed with DCIS before age 50 years was 12.10, and the SMR for White women diagnosed with DCIS before age 50 years was 4.21, suggesting that Black women did worse than White woman.

All women with DCIS underwent surgical treatment, and 47.1% also received radiotherapy. Among those patients who were not treated with radiotherapy, the SMR was 4.12, for those treated with unilateral mastectomy and 4.14 for those treated with bilateral mastectomies. Among women who underwent lumpectomy, the SMR was 2.81 for women treated with radiotherapy and 3.42 for those who underwent surgical treatment alone. There were 1540 women who died of breast cancer in the cohort, of whom 45.7% experienced an ipsilateral invasive recurrence or contralateral invasive breast cancer in the interval between DCIS and death from breast cancer. Among the patients who died, 27.8% were known to have undergone a mastectomy.

The annual mortality rate from breast cancer over the entire period of follow up was, 0.12% per year. The mortality rate increased for the first 10 years of the follow-up period and remained constant through years 15 thru 20. The cumulative 20-year risk of breast cancer-specific mortality following DCIS was 3.3% overall, but for Black women diagnosed before age 50 years, the 20-year risk of breast cancer-specific mortality was 8.1%. It has been postulated that the highest risk for recurrence among women who underwent mastectomy may be related to them having more extensive disease with close margins or may have genetic mutations that increase the likelihood of recurrence. Further, patients with DCIS undergoing bilateral mastectomies generally are not treated with endocrine therapy.

It was concluded from this cohort study that women with DCIS had a 3-fold increased risk of death from breast cancer after surgical treatment. The Standardized Mortality Ratio was lower among women who received lumpectomy plus radiation compared with women who received lumpectomy alone. The rate of breast cancer death was nearly 12-fold higher among women diagnosed with DCIS before age 40 years and 7-fold higher in Black women diagnosed with DCIS, compared with the general population.

Association of a Diagnosis of Ductal Carcinoma In Situ With Death From Breast Cancer. Giannakeas V, Sopik V and Narod SA. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(9):e2017124. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.17124