Background: Estrogen receptor (ER) and/or progesterone receptor expression occurs in approximately 50% HER2 positive (HER2+) breast cancers and cross-talk between the estrogen and HER2 pathways promotes endocrine therapy resistance. The efficacy of the aromatase inhibitor letrozole in combination with trastuzumab was therefore tested in a Phase 2 study.
Methods: Patients with ER+ and/or PgR+ and HER2+ (IHC 2+ or 3+ or FISH+) advanced breast cancer were treated with trastuzumab plus letrozole until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity.
Results: Thirty-three patients were enrolled, of which thirty one were considered evaluable. The majority of patients (82%) had received tamoxifen and 82% had HER2 FISH+ and/or IHC 3+ tumors. Eight patients responded (1 CR and 7 PR) for an overall response rate (ORR) of 26% and a clinical benefit rate (CBR) of 52%. The median time to progression (TTP) was 5.8 months and the median duration of response (DOR) was 20.6+ months. Excluding IHC 2+, FISH- tumors, the OR was 24%, CBR 44%, TTP 5.5 months and DOR 17+ months. The combination was well tolerated with only two toxicity events requiring termination of study medication.
Conclusions: Combined trastuzumab and letrozole treatment for patients with HER2+ and ER+ advanced breast cancer produced durable responses consistently lasting at least 1 year in one quarter of the patients. While these data are promising for a subgroup, for half the patients, trastuzumab plus letrozole was inactive. This finding demonstrates ER+ HER2+ advanced disease is heterogeneous and additional agents will be required for optimal management based on targeted therapeutics alone.