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Updates from the 10th European Early Breast Cancer Conference

By BCRF | March 11, 2016

The 10th European Early Breast Cancer Conference (#EBCC10) was held this week in Amsterdam and co-chaired by BCRF investigator Dr. Fatima Cardoso and co-chairs Dr. Rowitha Britz and Dr. Emiel Rutgers. Many newsworthy scientific studies were reported ranging from understanding breast density to multi-gene tests of tumor genes to predict who needs chemotherapy to new treatment paradigms.

One notable study presented was the EPHOS-B clinical trial. The uniqueness of this trial was that it tested the effect of a short-term combination anti-HER2 treatment (11 days prior to surgery) on reducing the tumor size. The study results showed that the combination of lapatinib and trastuzumab had a remarkable effect on reducing tumor size and stopping tumor growth in women with early-stage HER2+ breast cancer.   However, the effects of the combination on progression-free survival and overall survival are still unknown, as the study continues.

Dr. Cardoso noted “The results of this important trial confirm previous initial suggestions that most probably there are patients who can be treated with dual-blockade (two anti-HER2 agents simultaneously) alone, without chemotherapy. What is now [needed] is to confirm if these early responses translate into better or equal-long term survival.”

While the study results are encouraging, the study investigators issued a cautionary statement: “We wish to emphasize that our research has shown this treatment to be suitable for a group of women with a particular type of breast cancer. We have no evidence that it would be effective for anything other than patients with newly-diagnosed, HER2 positive breast tumors. In addition, we do not yet know what effect the treatment will have on long-term survival.”

Overall the results of combining two anti-HER2 therapies for a short period of time prior to surgery looks promising. Additional follow-up is needed to confirm whether this treatment improves survival for early stage patients with HER2 positive breast cancer. BCRF did not fund the EPHOS-B clinical trial. BCRF does, however, support several investigators working to improve HER2 targeted therapies including Dr. Mark Pegram who helped develop trastuzumab, the first anti-HER2 therapy. BCRF investigators Drs. Lyndsay Harris and Michael Press and others are studying why some HER2 positive tumors do not respond, or become resistant, to anti-HER2 therapies and working to develop new anti-HER2 treatments.