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      HER2-positive breast cancer: new therapeutic frontiers and overcoming resistance


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          The introduction of anti-HER2 therapies to the treatment of patients with HER2-positive breast cancer has led to dramatic improvements in survival in both early and advanced settings. Despite this breakthrough, nearly all patients with metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer eventually progress on anti-HER2 therapy due to de novo or acquired resistance. A better understanding not only of the underlying mechanisms of HER2 therapy resistance but of tumor heterogeneity as well as the host and tumor microenvironment is essential for the development of new strategies to further improve patient outcomes. One strategy has focused on inhibiting the HER2 signaling pathway more effectively with dual-blockade approaches and developing improved anti-HER2 therapies like antibody–drug conjugates, new anti-HER2 antibodies, bispecific antibodies, or novel tyrosine kinase inhibitors that might replace or be used in addition to some of the current anti-HER2 treatments. Combinations of anti-HER2 therapy with other agents like immune checkpoint inhibitors, CDK4/6 inhibitors, and PI3K/AKT/mTOR inhibitors are also being extensively evaluated in clinical trials. These add-on strategies of combining optimized targeted therapies could potentially improve outcomes for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer but may also allow de-escalation of treatment in some patients, potentially sparing some from unnecessary treatments, and their related toxicities and costs.

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          Efficacy and Safety of Abemaciclib, an Inhibitor of CDK4 and CDK6, for Patients with Breast Cancer, Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, and Other Solid Tumors.

          We evaluated the safety, pharmacokinetic profile, pharmacodynamic effects, and antitumor activity of abemaciclib, an orally bioavailable inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK) 4 and 6, in a multicenter study including phase I dose escalation followed by tumor-specific cohorts for breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), glioblastoma, melanoma, and colorectal cancer. A total of 225 patients were enrolled: 33 in dose escalation and 192 in tumor-specific cohorts. Dose-limiting toxicity was grade 3 fatigue. The maximum tolerated dose was 200 mg every 12 hours. The most common possibly related treatment-emergent adverse events involved fatigue and the gastrointestinal, renal, or hematopoietic systems. Plasma concentrations increased with dose, and pharmacodynamic effects were observed in proliferating keratinocytes and tumors. Radiographic responses were achieved in previously treated patients with breast cancer, NSCLC, and melanoma. For hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, the overall response rate was 31%; moreover, 61% of patients achieved either response or stable disease lasting ≥6 months.
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            Lapatinib combined with letrozole versus letrozole and placebo as first-line therapy for postmenopausal hormone receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer.

            Cross-talk between human epidermal growth factor receptors and hormone receptor pathways may cause endocrine resistance in breast cancer. This trial evaluated the effect of adding lapatinib, a dual tyrosine kinase inhibitor blocking epidermal growth factor receptor and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), to the aromatase inhibitor letrozole as first-line treatment of hormone receptor (HR) -positive metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Postmenopausal women with HR-positive MBC were randomly assigned to daily letrozole (2.5 mg orally) plus lapatinib (1,500 mg orally) or letrozole and placebo. The primary end point was progression-free survival (PFS) in the HER2-positive population. Results In HR-positive, HER2-positive patients (n = 219), addition of lapatinib to letrozole significantly reduced the risk of disease progression versus letrozole-placebo (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.71; 95% CI, 0.53 to 0.96; P = .019); median PFS was 8.2 v 3.0 months, respectively. Clinical benefit (responsive or stable disease >or= 6 months) was significantly greater for lapatinib-letrozole versus letrozole-placebo (48% v 29%, respectively; odds ratio [OR] = 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2 to 0.8; P = .003). Patients with centrally confirmed HR-positive, HER2-negative tumors (n = 952) had no improvement in PFS. A preplanned Cox regression analysis identified prior antiestrogen therapy as a significant factor in the HER2-negative population; a nonsignificant trend toward prolonged PFS for lapatinib-letrozole was seen in patients who experienced relapse less than 6 months since prior tamoxifen discontinuation (HR = 0.78; 95% CI, 0.57 to 1.07; P = .117). Grade 3 or 4 adverse events were more common in the lapatinib-letrozole arm versus letrozole-placebo arm (diarrhea, 10% v 1%; rash, 1% v 0%, respectively), but they were manageable. This trial demonstrated that a combined targeted strategy with letrozole and lapatinib significantly enhances PFS and clinical benefit rates in patients with MBC that coexpresses HR and HER2.
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              Expression of p95HER2, a truncated form of the HER2 receptor, and response to anti-HER2 therapies in breast cancer.

              Women with HER2-overexpressing breast cancers have poor prognosis, and many are resistant to the HER2 monoclonal antibody trastuzumab. A subgroup of HER2-overexpressing tumors also express p95HER2, an amino terminally truncated receptor that has kinase activity. Because p95HER2 cannot bind to trastuzumab but should be responsive to the HER2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib, we compared the sensitivity of tumors expressing p95HER2 and tumors expressing the full-length HER2 receptor to these agents. MCF-7 and T47D breast cancer cells were stably transfected with either full-length HER2 or p95HER2. We studied the effects of trastuzumab and lapatinib on receptor signaling, cell proliferation, and the growth of xenograft tumors. A paraffin-based immunofluorescence assay was developed to study the association between p95HER2 expression and sensitivity to trastuzumab in patients with advanced breast cancer. All statistical tests were two-sided. Treatment of p95HER2-expressing cells with lapatinib inhibited p95HER2 phosphorylation, reduced downstream phosphorylation of Akt and mitogen-activated protein kinases, inhibited cell growth (MCF-7p95HER2 clones, lapatinib versus control, mean growth inhibition = 57.6% versus 22.6%, difference = 35%, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 22.5% to 47.3%; P<.001; T47Dp95HER2 clones, lapatinib versus control, mean growth inhibition = 36.8% versus 20%, difference = 16.8%, 95% CI = 11.3% to 22.3%, P<.001), and inhibited growth of MCF-7p95HER2 xenograft tumors (lapatinib versus control, mean = 288.8 versus 435 mm3, difference = 146.2 mm3, CI = 73.8 to 218.5 mm3, P = .002). By contrast, treatment with trastuzumab had no effect on any of these parameters. Of 46 patients with metastatic breast cancer who were treated with trastuzumab, only one of nine patients (11.1%) expressing p95HER2 responded to trastuzumab (with a partial response), whereas 19 of the 37 patients (51.4%) with tumors expressing full-length HER2 achieved either a complete (five patients) or a partial (14 patients) response (P = .029). Breast tumors that express p95HER2 are resistant to trastuzumab and may require alternative or additional anti-HER2-targeting strategies.

                Author and article information

                Ther Adv Med Oncol
                Ther Adv Med Oncol
                Therapeutic Advances in Medical Oncology
                SAGE Publications (Sage UK: London, England )
                19 March 2019
                : 11
                : 1758835919833519
                [1-1758835919833519]Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, USA; Department of Medical Oncology-Breast Cancer Unit, Institut Catala d’Oncologia (ICO)-H.U. Bellvitge-IDIBELL, Barcelona, Spain
                [2-1758835919833519]Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA
                Author notes
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                © The Author(s), 2019

                This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages ( https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

                : 25 October 2018
                : 23 January 2019
                Custom metadata
                January-December 2019

                breast cancer,drug–antibody conjugates,her2-positive,new anti-her2 therapies,novel combinations,resistance,tyrosine kinase inhibitors


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