BMC cancer

Anthracycline-free neoadjuvant therapy induces pathological complete responses by exploiting immune proficiency in HER2+ breast cancer patients.

PMID 25512030


Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy (NC) including trastuzumab induces a high rate of pathological Complete Responses (pCR) in patients with locally advanced HER2-overexpressing Breast Cancer (BC), but is penalized by a severe cardiotoxicity when combined with anthracyclines. A phase II study was designed to assess whether an anthracycline-free NC regimen based on the early addition of trastuzumab to paclitaxel may increase the pCR rate without inducing severe cardiotoxicity in patients with locally advanced HER2-overexpressing BC. Immunomonitoring was performed to assess the contribution of patients' immunological background to the induction of clinical responses. Stage II-III HER2-positive BC patients received 24 weeks paclitaxel and trastuzumab NC, followed by 1 year adjuvant trastuzumab ± hormonal and/or radio-therapy. Assessment of pCR rate was the primary endpoint. A group of HER2-negative BC patients treated with neoadjuvant taxanes and anthracyclines was included. Serum levels of 10 cytokines and the efficiency of trastuzumab-mediated antibody-dependent cell cytotoxicity (ADCC) were monitored in vitro every 3 months. From July 2006 to February 2013, we enrolled 109 patients including 46 evaluable HER2-positive cases. A pCR rate of 50% was reached and no severe cardiotoxicity occurred. Serum cytokine profiling revealed only an IL-10 decrease (P = 0.02) in patients achieving a partial response, while HER2-negative patients disclosed marked cytokines changes. Compared to the unfavourable F/F genotype, patients carrying the V allele in the FcγRIIIa-158 polymorphism showed a higher efficacy of trastuzumab-ADCC throughout treatment (P ≤0.05). In the absence of anthracyclines, trastuzumab and paclitaxel induced a high rate of pCR, exploiting the synergy between the immunomodulating properties of these drugs and the retained immunological proficiency of patients with HER2-overexpressing BC. Trial registration number: NCT02307227, registered on (, November 26, 2014).