The addition of trastuzumab to chemotherapy extends survival among patients with HER2+ breast cancer. Prior work showed that trastuzumab and chemotherapy augments HER2 extracellular domain (ECD)-specific antibodies. The current study investigated whether combination therapy induced immune responses beyond HER2-ECD and, importantly, whether those immune responses were associated with survival. Pretreatment and posttreatment sera were obtained from 48 women with metastatic HER2+ breast cancer on NCCTG (now Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology) studies, N0337 and N983252. IgG to HER2 intracellular domain (ICD), HER2-ECD, p53, IGFBP2, CEA, and tetanus toxoid were examined. Sera from 25 age-matched controls and 26 surgically resected HER2+ patients were also examined. Prior to therapy, some patients with metastatic disease had elevated antibodies to IGFBP2, p53, HER2-ICD, HER2-ECD, and CEA, but not to tetanus toxin, relative to controls and surgically resected patients. Treatment augmented antibody responses to HER2-ICD in 69% of metastatic patients, which was highly associated with improved progression-free survival (PFS; HR = 0.5, P = 0.0042) and overall survival (OS; HR = 0.7, P = 0.038). Augmented antibody responses to HER2-ICD also correlated (P= 0.03) with increased antibody responses to CEA, IGFBP2, and p53, indicating that treatment induces epitope spreading. Paradoxically, patients who already had high preexisting immunity to HER2-ICD did not respond to therapy with increased antibodies to HER2-ICD and demonstrated poorer PFS (HR = 1.6, P < 0.0001) and OS (HR = 1.4, P = 0.0006). Overall, the findings further demonstrate the importance of the adaptive immune system in the efficacy of trastuzumab-containing regimens.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research