Eliminating breast surgery for invasive breast cancer in exceptional responders to neoadjuvant systemic therapy: a multicentre, single-arm, phase 2 trial

Author(s): Prof Savitri Krishnamurthy, MD3 Prof Wei T Yang, MD4 Prof Vicente Valero, MD1 Prof Yu Shen, PhD5 Heather Lin, PhD5 Prof Anthony Lucci, MD1 Prof Judy C Boughey, MD6 Prof Richard L White, MD7 Prof Emilia J Diego, MD8 Prof Gaiane M Rauch, MD4 on behalf of theExceptional Responders Clinical Trials Group
Source: DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(22)00613-1
Anjan J Patel MD

Dr. Anjan Patel's Thoughts

Interesting non-operative approach for T1-2, N0-1, M0 TNBC or HER2+ breast cancer, 58 patients enrolled in this single-center phase II out of MDA. 62% of patients had CR on biopsy after systemic therapy; if results hold true over a longer follow-up period, this may be of significant impact.


Neoadjuvant systemic therapy (NST) for triple-negative breast cancer and HER2-positive breast cancer yields a pathological complete response in approximately 60% of patients. A pathological complete response to NST predicts an excellent prognosis and can be accurately determined by percutaneous image-guided vacuum-assisted core biopsy (VACB). We evaluated radiotherapy alone, without breast surgery, in patients with early-stage triple-negative breast cancer or HER2-positive breast cancer treated with NST who had an image-guided VACB-determined pathological complete response.


This multicentre, single-arm, phase 2 trial was done in seven centres in the USA. Women aged 40 years or older who were not pregnant with unicentric cT1–2N0–1M0 triple-negative breast cancer or HER2-positive breast cancer and a residual breast lesion less than 2 cm on imaging after clinically standard NST were eligible for inclusion. Patients had one biopsy (minimum of 12 cores) obtained by 9G image-guided VACB of the tumour bed. If no invasive or in-situ disease was identified, breast surgery was omitted, and patients underwent standard whole-breast radiotherapy (40 Gy in 15 fractions or 50 Gy in 25 fractions) plus a boost (14 Gy in seven fractions). The primary outcome was the biopsy-confirmed ipsilateral breast tumour recurrence rate determined using the Kaplan-Meier method assessed in the per-protocol population. Safety was assessed in all patients who received VACB. This study has completed accrual and is registered with ClinicalTrials.govNCT02945579.


Between March 6, 2017, and Nov 9, 2021, 58 patients consented to participate; however, four (7%) did not meet final inclusion criteria and four (7%) withdrew consent. 50 patients were enrolled and underwent VACB following NST. The median age of the enrolled patients was 62 years (IQR 55–77); 21 (42%) patients had triple-negative breast cancer and 29 (58%) had HER2-positive breast cancer. VACB identified a pathological complete response in 31 patients (62% [95% CI 47·2–75·4). At a median follow-up of 26·4 months (IQR 15·2–39·6), no ipsilateral breast tumour recurrences occurred in these 31 patients. No serious biopsy-related adverse events or treatment-related deaths occurred.


Eliminating breast surgery in highly selected patients with an image-guided VACB-determined pathological complete response following NST is feasible with promising early results; however, additional prospective clinical trials evaluating this approach are needed.

Author Affiliations

1Department of Breast Surgical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA 2Department of Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA 3Department of Pathology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA 4Department of Breast Imaging, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA 5Department of Biostatistics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA 6Division of Breast and Melanoma Surgical Oncology, Department of Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA 7Division of Surgical Oncology, Department of Surgery, Carolinas Medical Center, Levine Cancer Institute, Atrium Health, Charlotte, NC, USA 8Division of Breast Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Magee-Womens Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

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