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Original Investigation
August 2016

Effects of Estrogen Receptor and Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-2 Levels on the Efficacy of TrastuzumabA Secondary Analysis of the HERA Trial

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Research and Clinical Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • 2Frontier Science Foundation– Hellas, Athens, Greece
  • 3University of Athens, Athens, Greece
  • 4Athens University of Economics and Business, Athens, Greece
  • 5Avera Cancer Institute, Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • 6Department of Pathology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
  • 7BREAST Datacentre, Institute Jules Bordet, Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
  • 8Breast Cancer Translational Research Laboratory, Institute Jules Bordet, Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
  • 9University of Milan, European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy
  • 10Targos Molecular Pathology GmbH, Kassel, Germany
  • 11Department of Medicine, Institute Jules Bordet, Universite Libre de Bruxelles and Breast International Group (BIG), Brussels, Belgium
  • 12Breast International Group (BIG), Brussels, Belgium
  • 13Royal Marsden Hospital, London, England
  • 14INSERM U1018 CESP, Service de Biostatistique et d’Epidémiologie, Villejuif, France
JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(8):1040-1047. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.0339

Importance  A number of studies suggest that response to antihuman epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (currently known as ERBB2, butreferred to asHER2 in this study) agents differs by estrogen receptor (ER) level status. The clinical relevance of this is unknown.

Objective  To determine the magnitude of trastuzumab benefit according to quantitative levels of ER and HER2 in the HERceptin Adjuvant (HERA) trial.

Design, Setting, and Participants  The HERA trial was an international, multicenter, randomized trial that included 5099 patients with early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer, randomized between 2001 and 2005 to receive either no trastuzumab or trastuzumab, after adjuvant chemotherapy. This is a secondary analysis of the HERA study. Local ER immunohistochemical (IHC) analyses, HER2 fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) ratio, and copy number results were available for 3037 patients (59.6%) randomized to observation and trastuzumab (1 or 2 years) (cohort 1). Transcript levels of ESR1 and HER2 genes were available for 615 patients (12.1%) (cohort 2).

Interventions  Patients were randomized to receive either no trastuzumab or 1 year vs 2 years of trastuzumab. Endocrine therapy was given to patients with hormone receptor–positive disease as per local guidelines.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Disease-free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS) were the primary and secondary end points in the intent-to-treat population (ITT). Analyses adjusting for crossover (censored and inverse probability weighted [IPW]) were also performed. Interactions among treatment, ER status, and HER2 amplification using predefined cutoffs were assessed in Cox proportional hazards regression models.

Results  Median follow-up time was 8 years. Levels of FISH and HER2 copy numbers were significantly higher in ER-negative patients (P < .001). In cohort 1, for DFS and OS, a significant treatment effect was found for all ER, IHC, and FISH levels, except for the ER-positive/HER2 low FISH ratio (≥2 to <5) group (DFS: 3-way ITT Pvalue for interaction = .07; censored = .02; IPW = .03; OS ITT Pvalue for interaction = .007; censored = .04; IPW = .03). In cohort 2, consistent with cohort 1, a significant predictive effect of the ESR1 gene for both end points was also observed (DFS Pvalue for interaction = .06; OS = .02), indicating that breast cancers with higher ESR1 levels also derive less benefit from trastuzumab.

Conclusions and Relevance  Patients with HER2-positive breast cancers that are ER-positive by IHC analyses with low FISH ratio (≥2 to <5), or with higher ESR1 levels derive significantly less benefit from adjuvant trastuzumab after chemotherapy. These data may explain heterogeneity in response to anti-HER2 agents in HER2-positive, ER-positive breast cancers as some may be more luminal-like than HER2 driven.

Trial Registration  clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00045032