Duration of adjuvant trastuzumab in HER2 positive breast cancer: Overall and disease free survival results from meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials

Published:August 18, 2017DOI:


      • One year of trastuzumab for HER2+ early breast cancer was chosen empirically.
      • Trastuzumab is associated with high cost, inconvenience and toxicity.
      • Two year of trastuzumab does not add to efficacy but increases toxicity.
      • Here we report the first meta-analysis of RCTs comparing one year of trastuzumab to shorter durations.



      One year of trastuzumab, chosen empirically, improves survival of women with early-stage, HER2-positive breast cancer but also adds substantially to cost, toxicity, and inconvenience. Longer treatment does not improve outcomes, but potentiates toxicities.


      Medline, Embase, and major conference proceedings were searched systematically in June 2017 to identify Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) comparing one year versus shorter durations of trastuzumab in adjuvant treatment of breast cancer. Reported Hazard-Ratios (HR) for Overall Survival (OS) and Disease-Free Survival (DFS), and Odds-Ratio for cardiac events, with respective 95% Confidence Intervals (CI) from each study was weighted using generic inverse-variance, and pooled in a meta-analysis. Inter-study heterogeneity and sub-group difference (based on hormone-receptors and node-positivity) were assessed using I2, and chi2 statistics, respectively.


      Four studies (n = 7614) satisfied inclusion criteria. Individual RCTs had diverse pre-specified upper-limits of 95% CI for declaring non-inferiority (range: <1.15 to <1.53). Pooled results demonstrated significant improvements in OS (HR 1.28, p = 0.04), and DFS (HR 1.24, p = 0.005) with 1 year of trastuzumab compared to shorter durations. Absence of multiplicity argument allowed for declaring superiority of 1 year of trastuzumab based on our results despite non-inferiority designs of individual trials. No influence on overall effect by duration of trastuzumab in experimental arm (9 weeks versus 6 months) was noted. No statistical interaction by hormone-receptor status and node-positivity on overall results was noticed [p(sub-group difference) 0.73, and 0.52, respectively]. Odds-Ratio for cardiac events was 2.65 (p < 0.001) favoring shorter duration.


      One year of trastuzumab prolongs overall, and disease-free survivals in women with early-stage HER2 positive breast cancer compared to shorter durations and this should remain as the standard of care. Cardiotoxicity increased significantly with the 1-year treatment.


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