Molecular alterations and poziotinib efficacy, a pan-HER inhibitor, in human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive breast cancers: Combined exploratory biomarker analysis from a phase II clinical trial of poziotinib for refractory HER2-positive breast cancer patients

We aimed to investigate the impact of genetic alterations on the efficacy of poziotinib in a phase II clinical trial of patients with heavily treated HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer (BC). We performed targeted ultra-deep sequencing with a customized cancer gene panel and RNA expression assay using BC specimens. Of 106 patients, biomarker data were available for 85. Copy number (CN) amplifications of HER2 were observed in 72 patients (85%), and CN >8 in 50 (59%). Single nucleotide variants (SNVs) of HER2 were found in 16 patients (19%). Genetic alterations of PIK3CA pathway were found in 40 patients (47%). Median progression free survival (PFS) of the biomarker analysis group was 3.61 months. In terms of PFS, HER2 with CN >8 prolonged (hazard ratio (HR) 0.61, 95% CI: 0.38, 0.97, p = 0.037) and alteration of PIK3CA pathway shortened the duration of survival (HR 2.25, 95% CI: 1.39, 3.63, p = 0.001). SNVs of HER2 increased survival duration, but the effect was not significant (HR: 0.58, 95% CI: 0.31, 1.08, p = 0.085). In addition, SNVs in the ERBB3 cytoplasmic domain decreased poziotinib response (HR: 4.58, 95% CI: 2.02, 10.37, p < 0.001). In multigene analysis, BC with HER2 CN >8 and intact PIK3CA pathway had significantly longer PFS compared to others (HR: 0.37, 95% CI: 0.21, 0.66, p = 0.001), while SNVs in the ERBB3 cytoplasmic domain predicted poor prognosis (HR: 4.28, 95% CI: 1.71, 10.71, p < 0.001). In conclusion, HER2 CN amplification, PIK3CA pathway alteration, and ERBB3 cytoplasmic mutation showed predictive roles on clinical outcomes of HER2-positive MBC treated with poziotinib.

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