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Medline ® Abstract for Reference 35

of 'HER2 and predicting response to therapy in breast cancer'

Letrozole is more effective neoadjuvant endocrine therapy than tamoxifen for ErbB-1- and/or ErbB-2-positive, estrogen receptor-positive primary breast cancer: evidence from a phase III randomized trial.
Ellis MJ, Coop A, Singh B, Mauriac L, Llombert-Cussac A, Jänicke F, Miller WR, Evans DB, Dugan M, Brady C, Quebe-Fehling E, Borgs M
J Clin Oncol. 2001;19(18):3808.
PURPOSE: Expression of ErbB-1 and ErbB-2 (epidermal growth factor receptor and HER2/neu) in breast cancer may cause tamoxifen resistance, but not all studies concur. Additionally, the relationship between ErbB-1 and ErbB-2 expression and response to selective aromatase inhibitors is unknown. A neoadjuvant study for primary breast cancer that randomized treatment between letrozole and tamoxifen provided a context within which these issues could be addressed prospectively.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Postmenopausal patients with estrogen- and/or progesterone receptor-positive (ER+ and/or PgR+) primary breast cancer ineligible for breast-conserving surgery were randomly assigned to 4 months of neoadjuvant letrozole 2.5 mg daily or tamoxifen 20 mg daily in a double-blinded study. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) for ER and PgR was conducted on pretreatment biopsies and assessed by the Allred score. ErbB-1 and ErbB-2 IHC were assessed by intensity and completeness of membranous staining according to published criteria.
RESULTS: For study biopsy-confirmed ER+ and/or PgR+ cases that received letrozole, 60% responded and 48% underwent successful breast-conserving surgery. The response to tamoxifen was inferior (41%, P =.004), and fewer patients underwent breast conservation (36%, P =.036). Differences in response rates between letrozole and tamoxifen were most marked for tumors that were positive for ErbB-1 and/or ErbB-2 and ER (88% v 21%, P =.0004).
CONCLUSION: ER+, ErbB-1+, and/or ErbB-2+ primary breast cancer responded well to letrozole, but responses to tamoxifen were infrequent. This suggests that ErbB-1 and ErbB-2 signaling through ER is ligand-dependent and that the growth-promoting effects of these receptor tyrosine kinases on ER+ breast cancer can be inhibited by potent estrogen deprivation therapy.
Duke University Breast Cancer Program, Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA. ellis053@mc.duke.edu