Significantly higher pathologic complete remission rate after neoadjuvant therapy with trastuzumab, paclitaxel, and epirubicin chemotherapy: results of a randomized trial in human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive operable breast cancer

Aman U Buzdar, Nuhad K Ibrahim, Deborah Francis, Daniel J Booser, Eva S Thomas, Richard L Theriault, Lajos Pusztai, Marjorie C Green, Banu K Arun, Sharon H Giordano, Massimo Cristofanilli, Debra K Frye, Terry L Smith, Kelly K Hunt, Sonja E Singletary, Aysegul A Sahin, Michael S Ewer, Thomas A Buchholz, Donald Berry, Gabriel N Hortobagyi
Journal of Clinical Oncology 2005 June 1, 23 (16): 3676-85

PURPOSE: The objective of this study was to determine whether the addition of trastuzumab to chemotherapy in the neoadjuvant setting could increase pathologic complete response (pCR) rate in patients with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) -positive disease.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Forty-two patients with HER2-positive disease with operable breast cancer were randomly assigned to either four cycles of paclitaxel followed by four cycles of fluorouracil, epirubicin, and cyclophosphamide or to the same chemotherapy with simultaneous weekly trastuzumab for 24 weeks. The primary objective was to demonstrate a 20% improvement in pCR (assumed 21% to 41%) with the addition of trastuzumab to chemotherapy. The planned sample size was 164 patients.

RESULTS: Prognostic factors were similar in the two groups. After 34 patients had completed therapy, the trial's Data Monitoring Committee stopped the trial because of superiority of trastuzumab plus chemotherapy. pCR rates were 25% and 66.7% for chemotherapy (n = 16) and trastuzumab plus chemotherapy (n = 18), respectively (P = .02). The decision was based on the calculation that, if study continued to 164 patients, there was a 95% probability that trastuzumab plus chemotherapy would be superior. Of the 42 randomized patients, 26% in the chemotherapy arm achieved pCR compared with 65.2% in the trastuzumab plus chemotherapy arm (P = .016). The safety of this approach is not established, although no clinical congestive heart failure was observed. A more than 10% decrease in the cardiac ejection fraction was observed in five and seven patients in the chemotherapy and trastuzumab plus chemotherapy arms, respectively.

CONCLUSION: Despite the small sample size, these data indicate that adding trastuzumab to chemotherapy, as used in this trial, significantly increased pCR without clinical congestive heart failure.

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