Adjuvant Chemotherapy May Not Be Needed for Localized Breast Cancer If pCR Is Attained on Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy

May 2019 Vol 10, No 5


Breast Cancer

Reaching pathologic complete response (pCR) after neoadjuvant chemotherapy correlates with significantly improved event-free survival (EFS) and overall survival (OS) in patients with localized breast cancer, according to a large comprehensive meta-analysis presented at the 2018 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Survival was improved across different types of breast cancer in patients with pCR on neoadjuvant therapy, and survival rates were particularly robust in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and HER2-positive breast cancer.

Furthermore, EFS and OS were similar regardless of whether patients received treatment with additional adjuvant chemotherapy, suggesting that adjuvant chemotherapy can be omitted in some patients with early breast cancer who achieve pCR on neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

“Similar outcomes with or without adjuvant chemotherapy in patients who attain pCR on neoadjuvant chemotherapy…suggest that adjuvant chemotherapy could potentially be omitted under certain circumstances. These important findings suggest that further research is needed to evaluate the clinical utility of escalation and de-escalation strategies in the adjuvant setting based on neoadjuvant response,” said Laura M. Spring, MD, Breast Medical Oncologist, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Boston, MA.

“Additional adjuvant chemotherapy…adds to toxicity and may represent overtreatment for some patients who get to pCR on neoadjuvant therapy. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy offers several additional advantages over adjuvant therapy, including rapid assessment of response using surrogate markers like pCR,” Dr Spring stated.

The meta-analysis included published studies of localized breast cancer with 25 or more patients featuring neoadjuvant chemotherapy that reported pCR results as well as recurrence and/or survival based on pathologic outcome. A PubMed search identified 3209 potential studies, but only 52 met the criteria for inclusion; the total number of patients included in these studies was 27,895.

pCR as Predictive Marker

pCR was achieved in 21.1% of all patients included in the meta-analysis. pCR varied by subtype, with approximately 30% of triple-negative and HER2-positive patients reaching pCR on neoadjuvant therapy compared with less than 20% of hormone receptor (HR)-positive patients.

Patients who achieved pCR after neoadjuvant chemotherapy had significantly better EFS versus patients with residual disease. EFS was improved by 69% in patients with pCR. The 5-year EFS was 88% for those with pCR versus 67% for patients with residual disease.

A similar relationship was observed between pCR and OS. The 5-year OS was 94% for patients with pCR versus 75% for those with residual disease.

The relationship between pCR and survival was strongest for TNBC and HER2-positive breast cancer, although survival was improved to a lesser extent by pCR versus residual disease in HR-positive/HER2-negative breast cancer.

The 5-year EFS was improved in pCR patients who received treatment with adjuvant chemotherapy as well as in those who did not—86% versus 88%, respectively.

One of the study’s strengths was that pCR was highly predictive of EFS and OS regardless of the type of neoadjuvant regimens patients received.

“This suggests that the path taken to attain pCR may not be critical,” Dr Spring noted.

Commenting from the audience about Dr Spring’s presentation, Laura J. Esserman, MD, MBA, Director, Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, San Francisco, stated, “This is a fantastic job of presenting complex data. The data show that however you get to pCR, you have a good outcome. This study supports de-escalation of therapy in localized breast cancer.”

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