Neoadjuvant chemotherapy with sequential anthracycline-docetaxel with gemcitabine for large operable or locally advanced breast cancer: ANZ 0502 (NeoGem)

N McCarthy, F Boyle, N Zdenkowski, J Bull, E Leong, A Simpson, G Kannourakis, P A Francis, J Chirgwin, E Abdi, V Gebski, A S Veillard, D Zannino, N Wilcken, L Reaby, D F Lindsay, H D Badger, J F Forbes
Breast: Official Journal of the European Society of Mastology 2014, 23 (2): 142-51

BACKGROUND: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy has a sound rationale for use in women with large operable breast cancer, and achievement of pathological complete response (pCR) is prognostic. Epirubicin and cyclophosphamide followed by docetaxel is a standard chemotherapy regimen for early breast cancer. In metastatic breast cancer the combination of gemcitabine and a taxane has shown promising results. This phase II study investigated the efficacy and safety of incorporating gemcitabine into neoadjuvant therapy.

METHODS: Female patients with operable breast cancer that was clinically T2 (≥3 cm) or T3-4, N0-1, M0 were enrolled to receive 24 weeks of neoadjuvant chemotherapy using epirubicin and cyclophosphamide followed by docetaxel and gemcitabine, plus trastuzumab if HER2-positive. The primary endpoint was the pathological complete response (pCR) rate in the breast in separate HER2-negative and HER2-positive cohorts. Secondary endpoints included pCR in both the breast and axillary lymph nodes, clinical and radiological response rates, disease free survival and safety.

RESULTS: 81 patients were enrolled: 63 HER2-negative and 18 HER2-positive. 67 (84%) completed all cycles of chemotherapy, and 78 (96%) proceeded to surgery. pCR was achieved by 12 (20%) patients with HER2-negative, and 9 (53%) with HER2-positive disease. At the first interim analysis, addition of prophylactic G-CSF was recommended due to excess neutropenia. The HER2-negative cohort was closed to accrual because it did not meet the pre-specified target for pCR, and the HER2-positive cohort was closed due to slow accrual. At a median follow-up of 24 months, 12 of 81 (15%) patients had experienced a relapse of their breast cancer.

CONCLUSION: Neoadjuvant gemcitabine, when added to docetaxel, after epirubicin and cyclophosphamide, did not reach the pre-specified expectations for pCR rate in HER2-negative tumours. Excess neutropenia was observed, requiring growth factor support. Addition of gemcitabine to docetaxel in this schedule cannot be recommended. Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ( registration number ACTRN12606000191594.

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