Background: Immune-based strategies represent a promising approach in breast cancer (BC) treatment. The glycoprotein mucin-1 (MUC-1) is overexpressed in more than 90% of BC patients, and is targeted by the cancer vaccine tecemotide. We have investigated the efficacy and safety of tecemotide when added to neoadjuvant standard-of-care (SoC) treatment in early BC patients.
Patients and methods: A total of 400 patients with HER2-early BC were recruited into this prospective, multicentre, randomised 2-arm academic phase II trial. Patients received preoperative SoC treatment (chemotherapy or endocrine therapy) with or without tecemotide. Postmenopausal women with oestrogen receptor (ER)+++, or ER++ and Ki67 < 14%, and G1,2 tumours ('luminal A' tumours) received 6 months of letrozole. Postmenopausal patients with triple-negative, ER-/+/++ and Ki67 ≥ 14%, and with G3 tumours, as well as premenopausal patients, received four cycles of epirubicin/cyclophosphamide plus four cycles of docetaxel. Primary end-point was residual cancer burden (RCB; 0/I versus II/III) at surgery. Secondary end-points included pathological complete response (pCR), safety, and quality of life.
Findings: We observed no significant difference in RCB 0/I rates between patients with (36.4%) and without (31.9%) tecemotide in the overall study population (p = 0.40) nor in endocrine and chemotherapy-treated subgroups (25.0% versus 13.3%, p = 0.17; 39.6% versus 37.8%, p = 0.75, respectively). The addition of tecemotide did not affect overall pCR rates (22.5% versus 17.4%, p = 0.23), MUC-1 expression, or tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes content. Tecemotide did not increase toxicity when compared to SoC therapy alone.
Interpretation: Neoadjuvant tecemotide is safe, but does not improve RCB or pCR rates in patients receiving standard neoadjuvant therapy.
Keywords: Breast cancer; Cancer vaccine; MUC-1; Neoadjuvant treatment; Tecemotide.
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