Tucatinib vs Placebo, Both in Combination With Trastuzumab and Capecitabine, for Previously Treated ERBB2 (HER2)-Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer in Patients With Brain Metastases: Updated Exploratory Analysis of the HER2CLIMB Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA Oncol. 2023 Feb 1;9(2):197-205. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2022.5610.


Importance: It is estimated that up to 50% of patients with ERBB2 (HER2)-positive metastatic breast cancer (MBC) will develop brain metastases (BMs), which is associated with poor prognosis. Previous reports of the HER2CLIMB trial have demonstrated that tucatinib in combination with trastuzumab and capecitabine provides survival and intracranial benefits for patients with ERBB2-positive MBC and BMs.

Objective: To describe overall survival (OS) and intracranial outcomes from tucatinib in combination with trastuzumab and capecitabine in patients with ERBB2-positive MBC and BMs with an additional 15.6 months of follow-up.

Design, setting, and participants: HER2CLIMB is an international, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial evaluating tucatinib in combination with trastuzumab and capecitabine. The 612 patients, including those with active or stable BMs, had ERBB2-positive MBC previously treated with trastuzumab, pertuzumab, and trastuzumab emtansine. The study was conducted from February 23, 2016, to May 3, 2019. Data from February 23, 2016, to February 8, 2021, were analyzed.

Interventions: Patients were randomized 2:1 to receive tucatinib (300 mg orally twice daily) or placebo (orally twice daily), both in combination with trastuzumab (6 mg/kg intravenously or subcutaneously every 3 weeks with an initial loading dose of 8 mg/kg) and capecitabine (1000 mg/m2 orally twice daily on days 1-14 of each 3-week cycle).

Main outcomes and measures: Evaluations in this exploratory subgroup analysis included OS and intracranial progression-free survival (CNS-PFS) in patients with BMs, confirmed intracranial objective response rate (ORR-IC) and duration of intracranial response (DOR-IC) in patients with measurable intracranial disease at baseline, and new brain lesion-free survival in all patients. Only OS was prespecified before the primary database lock.

Results: At baseline, 291 of 612 patients (47.5%) had BMs. Median age was 52 years (range, 22-75 years), and 289 (99.3%) were women. At median follow-up of 29.6 months (range, 0.1-52.9 months), median OS was 9.1 months longer in the tucatinib-combination group (21.6 months; 95% CI, 18.1-28.5) vs the placebo-combination group (12.5 months; 95% CI, 11.2-16.9). The tucatinib-combination group showed greater clinical benefit in CNS-PFS and ORR-IC compared with the placebo-combination group. The DOR-IC was 8.6 months (95% CI, 5.5-10.3 months) in the tucatinib-combination group and 3.0 months (95% CI, 3.0-10.3 months) in the placebo-combination group. Risk of developing new brain lesions as the site of first progression or death was reduced by 45.1% in the tucatinib-combination group vs the placebo-combination group (hazard ratio, 0.55 [95% CI, 0.36-0.85]).

Conclusions and relevance: This subgroup analysis found that tucatinib in combination with trastuzumab and capecitabine improved OS while reducing the risk of developing new brain lesions, further supporting the importance of this treatment option for patients with ERBB2-positive MBC, including those with BMs.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02614794.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Brain Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Brain Neoplasms* / secondary
  • Breast Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Capecitabine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Trastuzumab


  • Trastuzumab
  • Capecitabine
  • tucatinib
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • ERBB2 protein, human

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02614794