Introduction: The purpose of this study was to retrospectively explore the relationship between human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) messenger RNA (mRNA) expression and efficacy in patients receiving trastuzumab plus docetaxel (HT) or trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1).
Methods: Patients with HER2-positive, locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer (MBC) were randomly assigned to HT (n=70) or T-DM1 (n=67). HER2 status was assessed locally using immunohistochemistry or fluorescence in situ hybridization and confirmed retrospectively by central testing. HER2 mRNA expression was assessed using quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction.
Results: HER2 mRNA levels were obtained for 116/137 patients (HT=61; T-DM1=55). Median pretreatment HER2 mRNA was 8.9. The risk of disease progression in the overall population was lower with T-DM1 than with HT (hazard ratio (HR)=0.59; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.36 to 0.97). This effect was more pronounced in patients with HER2 mRNA≥median (HR=0.39; 95% CI 0.18 to 0.85) versus <median (HR=0.85; 95% CI 0.44 to 1.67). In the T-DM1 arm, median progression-free survival (PFS) was not reached in patients with HER2 mRNA≥median and was 10.6 months in patients with HER2 mRNA<median. In the HT arm, PFS was 8.8 versus 9.8 months in patients with HER2 mRNA≥median versus<median, respectively. The effect of HER2 mRNA expression on objective response rates was less pronounced.
Conclusions: This exploratory analysis suggests that while overall, patients with HER2-positive MBC show improved PFS with T-DM1 relative to HT, the effect is enhanced in patients with tumor HER2 mRNA ≥ median.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00679341.