Trastuzumab emtansine versus treatment of physician's choice for pretreated HER2-positive advanced breast cancer (TH3RESA): a randomised, open-label, phase 3 trial

Lancet Oncol. 2014 Jun;15(7):689-99. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(14)70178-0. Epub 2014 May 2.


Background: Patients with progressive disease after two or more HER2-directed regimens for recurrent or metastatic breast cancer have few effective therapeutic options. We aimed to compare trastuzumab emtansine, an antibody-drug conjugate comprising the cytotoxic agent DM1 linked to trastuzumab, with treatment of physician's choice in this population of patients.

Methods: This randomised, open-label, phase 3 trial took place in medical centres in 22 countries across Europe, North America, South America, and Asia-Pacific. Eligible patients (≥18 years, left ventricular ejection fraction ≥50%, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status 0-2) with progressive HER2-positive advanced breast cancer who had received two or more HER2-directed regimens in the advanced setting, including trastuzumab and lapatinib, and previous taxane therapy in any setting, were randomly assigned (in a 2:1 ratio) to trastuzumab emtansine (3·6 mg/kg intravenously every 21 days) or physician's choice using a permuted block randomisation scheme by an interactive voice and web response system. Patients were stratified according to world region (USA vs western Europe vs other), number of previous regimens (excluding single-agent hormonal therapy) for the treatment of advanced disease (two to three vs more than three), and presence of visceral disease (any vs none). Coprimary endpoints were investigator-assessed progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival in the intention-to-treat population. We report the final PFS analysis and the first interim overall survival analysis. This study is registered with, number NCT01419197.

Findings: From Sept 14, 2011, to Nov 19, 2012, 602 patients were randomly assigned (404 to trastuzumab emtansine and 198 to physician's choice). At data cutoff (Feb 11, 2013), 44 patients assigned to physician's choice had crossed over to trastuzumab emtansine. After a median follow-up of 7·2 months (IQR 5·0-10·1 months) in the trastuzumab emtansine group and 6·5 months (IQR 4·1-9·7) in the physician's choice group, 219 (54%) patients in the trastuzumab emtansine group and 129 (65%) of patients in the physician's choice group had PFS events. PFS was significantly improved with trastuzumab emtansine compared with physician's choice (median 6·2 months [95% CI 5·59-6·87] vs 3·3 months [2·89-4·14]; stratified hazard ratio [HR] 0·528 [0·422-0·661]; p<0·0001). Interim overall survival analysis showed a trend favouring trastuzumab emtansine (stratified HR 0·552 [95% CI 0·369-0·826]; p=0·0034), but the stopping boundary was not crossed. A lower incidence of grade 3 or worse adverse events was reported with trastuzumab emtansine than with physician's choice (130 events [32%] in 403 patients vs 80 events [43%] in 184 patients). Neutropenia (ten [2%] vs 29 [16%]), diarrhoea (three [<1%] vs eight [4%]), and febrile neutropenia (one [<1%] vs seven [4%]) were grade 3 or worse adverse events that were more common in the physician's choice group than in the trastuzumab emtansine group. Thrombocytopenia (19 [5%] vs three [2%]) was the grade 3 or worse adverse event that was more common in the trastuzumab emtansine group. 74 (18%) patients in the trastuzumab emtansine group and 38 (21%) in the physician's choice group reported a serious adverse event.

Interpretation: Trastuzumab emtansine should be considered as a new standard for patients with HER2-positive advanced breast cancer who have previously received trastuzumab and lapatinib.

Funding: Genentech.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ado-Trastuzumab Emtansine
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maytansine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Maytansine / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / analysis*
  • Trastuzumab


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Maytansine
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Trastuzumab
  • Ado-Trastuzumab Emtansine

Associated data