Lowering the bar for consideration of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in early-stage HER2- positive breast cancers

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Conference Proceeding

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Publication Title

J Clin Oncol


Background: The use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) has contributed to increased rates of diseasefree survival (DFS) as well as overall survival in breast cancer patients, specifically those with HER2- positive disease. Stage 2 patients with HER2-positive disease including tumors > 2cm as well as node positive disease receive neoadjuvant chemotherapy as per current NCCN guidelines. The aim of our study was to understand outcomes in patients with early breast cancer receiving chemotherapy. Methods: We extracted data on patients with initial clinical stages IA-IB breast cancer who had HER2- positive status on initial biopsy and received chemotherapy plus anti-HER2 therapy in the Henry Ford Health System between January 2016 to June 2020. Patients with T2 or above and/or node positive disease were excluded. Results: Of the 229 total patients that met eligibility criteria, 159 (71%) were white, 65 (28%) were African American. 99% were females. The median age at diagnosis was 61 years. Estrogen receptor positivity was noted in 85% (196/229) of the patients. NAC was given to 56 patients (24%) of which 26 (46%) were African American and 45 (80%) were hormone receptor positive. 5 (9%) patients achieved pathological complete remission (CR). Remaining 51 patients (91%) did not have pathological CR. Of these, 17 (33%) patients had the same stage at surgery after NAC and 34 (66%) were upstaged on final pathological evaluation. 21 patients with residual disease (41%) underwent treatment change in the form of either ado-trastuzumab emtasine (TDM-1) or additional radiation therapy or repeat surgery. Of note, 34 of the 51 patients were treated for residual disease after 2019 with TDM-1. 54 (95%) patients are alive currently. Of the 173 patients that received adjuvant chemotherapy (76%), 39 (23%) were African American and 150 (87%) had hormone receptor positive disease. 19 of these (11%) were upstaged at surgery compared to the initial biopsy requiring treatment change. 163 (94%) are alive currently with no disease recurrence. Conclusions: Our study results suggest that NAC is used in minority of breast cancer patients, especially with stages 1A and 1B. Pathological CR rate in our study population was low and majority of patients who got NAC as well as a small percent of those who received adjuvant chemotherapy had disease upstaged based on surgical pathology results. We believe that this could be because of inaccurate initial staging due to limitations of imaging techniques and our population being mostly hormone receptor positive. With approval of TDM-1 in patients with residual disease post NAC, we may be able to improve outcomes in terms of recurrences and survival in these patients. Thus, consideration of NAC for early stage HER2-positive breast cancers appears attractive and data like our study may support ongoing prospective clinical trials.

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