Background: The aim of this work was to evaluate the impact of (and relative contribution of) tumor-related and immune-related diversity of HER2-positive disease on the response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy plus anti-HER2 agents.
Patients and methods: The CherLOB phase II study randomized 121 HER2-positive breast cancer patients to neoadjuvant chemotherapy plus trastuzumab, lapatinib or both. Tumor samples from diagnostic core biopsy were centralized. Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) were evaluated on H&E slides. Intrinsic subtyping was carried out using the research-based 50-gene prediction analysis of a microarray (PAM50) subtype predictor. Immune-related gene signatures were also evaluated.
Results: Continuous Str-TILs and It-TILs were significantly associated with pCR [OR 1.03, 95% CI 1.02-1.05 (P < 0.001) and OR 1.09, 95% CI 1.04-1.15 (P < 0.001) for Str-TILs and It-TILs, respectively]. According to PAM50, the subtype distribution was as follows: HER2-enriched 26.7%, Luminal A 25.6%, Luminal B 16.3%, Basal-like 14% and Normal-like 17.4%. The highest rate of pCR was observed for the HER2-enriched subtype (50%), followed by Basal-like, Luminal B and Luminal A (χ(2) test, P = 0.026). Immune gene signatures significantly associated with pCR in univariate analyses were identified: most of them maintained a significant association with pCR in multivariate analyses corrected for PAM50 subtypes, whereas TILs did not.
Conclusions: In this study, both tumor-related and immune-related features contribute to the modulation of pCR after neoadjuvant chemotherapy plus anti-HER2 agents. Immune signatures rather than TILs added significant prediction of pCR beyond PAM50 intrinsic subtypes.
Keywords: HER2; PAM50; breast cancer; immune signatures; neoadjuvant; tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes.
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