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Six versus 12 months’ adjuvant trastuzumab in patients with HER2-positive early breast cancer: The PERSEPHONE non-inferiority RCT

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Chris PlummerORCiD



This is the final published version of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by NIHR Journals Library, 2020.

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© Queen’s Printer and Controller of HMSO 2020.Background: The addition of adjuvant trastuzumab to chemotherapy has significantly improved outcomes for people with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive, early, potentially curable breast cancer. Twelve months’ trastuzumab, tested in registration trials, was adopted as standard adjuvant treatment in 2006. Subsequently, similar outcomes were demonstrated using 9 weeks of trastuzumab. Shorter durations were therefore tested for non-inferiority. Objectives: To establish whether or not 6 months’ adjuvant trastuzumab is non-inferior to 12 months’ in the treatment of HER2-positive early breast cancer using a primary end point of 4-year disease-free survival. Design: This was a Phase III randomised controlled non-inferiority trial. Setting: The setting was 152 NHS hospitals. Participants: A total of 4088 patients with HER2-positive early breast cancer who it was planned would receive both chemotherapy and trastuzumab took part. Intervention: Randomisation (1: 1) to 6 months’ or 12 months’ trastuzumab treatment. Main outcomes: The primary end point was disease-free survival. The secondary end points were overall survival, cost-effectiveness and cardiac function during treatment with trastuzumab. Assuming a 4-year disease-free survival rate of 80% with 12 months’ trastuzumab, 4000 patients were required to demonstrate non-inferiority of 6 months’ trastuzumab (5% one-sided significance, 85% power), defining the non-inferiority limit as no worse than 3% below the standard arm. Costs and quality-adjusted life-years were estimated using a within-trial analysis and a lifetime decision-analytic model. Results: Between 4 October 2007 and 31 July 2015, 2045 patients were randomised to 12 months’ trastuzumab and 2043 were randomised to 6 months’ trastuzumab. Sixty-nine per cent of patients had ER-positive disease; 90% received anthracyclines (49% with taxanes; 41% without taxanes); 10% received taxanes without anthracyclines; 54% received trastuzumab sequentially after chemotherapy; and 85% received adjuvant chemotherapy (58% were node negative). At 6.1 years’ median follow-up, with 389 (10%) deaths and 566 (14%) disease-free survival events, the 4-year disease-free survival rates for the 4088 patients were 89.5% (95% confidence interval 88.1% to 90.8%) in the 6-month group and 90.3% (95% confidence interval 88.9% to 91.5%) in the 12-month group (hazard ratio 1.10, 90% confidence interval 0.96 to 1.26; non-inferiority p = 0.01), demonstrating non-inferiority of 6 months’ trastuzumab. Congruent results were found for overall survival (non-inferiority p = 0.0003) and landmark analyses 6 months from starting trastuzumab [non-inferiority p = 0.03 (disease-free-survival) and p = 0.006 (overall survival)]. Six months’ trastuzumab resulted in fewer patients reporting adverse events of severe grade [365/1929 (19%) vs. 460/1935 (24%) for 12-month patients; p = 0.0003] or stopping early because of cardiotoxicity [61/1977 (3%) vs. 146/1941 (8%) for 12-month patients; p < 0.0001]. Health economic analysis showed that 6 months’ trastuzumab resulted in significantly lower lifetime costs than and similar lifetime quality-adjusted life-years to 12 months’ trastuzumab, and thus there is a high probability that 6 months’ trastuzumab is cost-effective compared with 12 months’ trastuzumab. Patient-reported experiences in the trial highlighted fatigue and aches and pains most frequently. Limitations: The type of chemotherapy and timing of trastuzumab changed during the recruitment phase of the study as standard practice altered. Conclusions: PERSEPHONE demonstrated that, in the treatment of HER2-positive early breast cancer, 6 months’ adjuvant trastuzumab is non-inferior to 12 months’. Six months’ treatment resulted in significantly less cardiac toxicity and fewer severe adverse events. Future work: Ongoing translational work investigates patient and tumour genetic determinants of toxicity, and trastuzumab efficacy. An individual patient data meta-analysis with PHARE and other trastuzumab duration trials is planned. Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN52968807, EudraCT 2006-007018-39 and NCT00712140.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Earl H, Hiller L, Vallier A-L, Loi S, McAdam K, Hughes-Davies L, Rea D, Howe D, Raynes K, Higgins HB, Wilcox M, Plummer C, Mahler-Araujo B, Provenzano E, Chhabra A, Gasson S, Balmer C, Abraham JE, Caldas C, Hall P, Shinkins B, McCabe C, Hulme C, Miles D, Wardley AM, Cameron DA, Dunn JA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Health Technology Assessment

Year: 2020

Volume: 24

Issue: 40

Pages: 1-230

Print publication date: 01/09/2020

Online publication date: 01/08/2020

Acceptance date: 01/01/2020

Date deposited: 09/12/2020

ISSN (print): 1366-5278

ISSN (electronic): 2046-4924

Publisher: NIHR Journals Library


DOI: 10.3310/hta24400

PubMed id: 32880572


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