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1.  MEK inhibition increases lapatinib sensitivity via modulation of FOXM1 
Current medicinal chemistry  2013;20(19):2486-2499.
The standard targeted therapy for HER2-overexpressing breast cancer is the HER2 monoclonal antibody, trastuzumab. Although effective, many patients eventually develop trastuzumab resistance. The dual EGFR/HER2 small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib is approved for use in trastuzumab-refractory metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer. However, lapatinib resistance is a problem as most patients with trastuzumab-refractory disease do not benefit from lapatinib. Understanding the mechanisms underlying lapatinib resistance may ultimately facilitate development of new therapeutic strategies for HER2-overexpressing breast cancer. Our current results indicate that MEK inhibition increases lapatinib-mediated cytotoxicity in resistant HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells. We genetically and pharmacologically blocked MEK/ERK signaling and evaluated lapatinib response by trypan blue exclusion, anchorage-independent growth assays, flow cytometric cell cycle and apoptosis analysis, and in tumor xenografts. Combined MEK inhibition and lapatinib treatment reduced phosphorylated ERK more than single agent treatment. In addition, Western blots, immunofluorescence, and immunohistochemistry demonstrated that the combination of MEK inhibitor plus lapatinib reduced nuclear expression of the MEK/ERK downstream proto-oncogene FOXM1. Genetic knockdown of MEK was tested for the ability to increase lapatinib-mediated cell cycle arrest or apoptosis in JIMT-1 and MDA361 cells. Finally, xenograft studies demonstrated that combined pharmacological inhibition of MEK plus lapatinib suppressed tumor growth and reduced expression of FOXM1 in HER2-overexpressing breast cancers that are resistant to trastuzumab and lapatinib. Our results suggest that FoxM1 contributes to lapatinib resistance downstream of MEK signaling, and supports further study of pharmacological MEK inhibition to improve response to lapatinib in HER2-overexpressing trastuzumab-resistant breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3650616  PMID: 23531216
lapatinib; HER2; erbB2; breast cancer; resistance; MEK
2.  Lapatinib for the treatment of breast cancer in the People’s Republic of China 
OncoTargets and therapy  2014;7:1367-1373.
Lapatinib is an oral, small-molecule, reversible inhibitor of both epidermal growth factor receptor and human epidermal growth factor receptor–2 (HER2) tyrosine kinases. In March 2007, the US Food and Drug Administration approved lapatinib for use in combination with capecitabine for the treatment of women with HER2-overexpressing, advanced or metastatic breast cancer. This review discusses the available information of lapatinib in Chinese breast cancer patients, focusing on its effectiveness and clinical application against advanced or metastatic breast cancer. In pivotal phase III trials, a combination of lapatinib and capecitabine significantly decreased the risk of disease progression compared to capecitabine alone in women with HER2-positive advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Other trials were used to evaluate lapatinib in combination with hormone therapy, in combination with trastuzumab, and as an adjunct to adjuvant therapy for early-stage disease. Preclinical data have revealed that lapatinib is active in trastuzumab-resistant cell lines as well as synergistic with trastuzumab. In clinical trials, lapatinib has not been associated with serious or symptomatic cardiotoxicity. Further, it can cross the blood–brain barrier and may therefore have a role in preventing cancer progression in the central nervous system. Thus, lapatinib warrants further evaluation in HER2-positive metastatic and early-stage breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC4125370  PMID: 25114575
lapatinib; HER2 positive; breast cancer; molecular targeting therapy
3.  An heregulin-EGFR-HER3 autocrine signaling axis can mediate acquired lapatinib resistance in HER2+ breast cancer models 
The human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) oncogene is an attractive therapeutic target for the treatment of HER2-addicted tumors. Although lapatinib, an FDA-approved small-molecule HER2 and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), represents a significant therapeutic advancement in the treatment of HER2+ breast cancers, responses to lapatinib have not been durable. Consequently, elucidation of mechanisms of acquired therapeutic resistance to HER-directed therapies is of critical importance.
Using a functional protein-pathway activation mapping strategy, along with targeted genomic knockdowns applied to a series of isogenic-matched pairs of lapatinib-sensitive and resistant cell lines, we now report an unexpected mechanism of acquired resistance to lapatinib and similar TKIs.
The signaling analysis revealed that whereas HER2 was appropriately inhibited in lapatinib-resistant cells, EGFR tyrosine phosphorylation was incompletely inhibited. Using a targeted molecular knockdown approach to interrogate the causal molecular underpinnings of EGFR-persistent activation, we found that lapatinib-resistant cells were no longer oncogene addicted to HER2-HER3-PI3K signaling, as seen in the parental lapatinib-sensitive cell lines, but instead were dependent on a heregulin (HRG)-driven HER3-EGFR-PI3K-PDK1 signaling axis. Two FDA-approved EGFR TKIs could not overcome HRG-HER3-mediated activation of EGFR, or reverse lapatinib resistance. The ability to overcome EGFR-mediated acquired therapeutic resistance to lapatinib was demonstrated through molecular knockdown of EGFR and treatment with the irreversible pan-HER TKI neratinib, which blocked HRG-dependent phosphorylation of HER3 and EGFR, resulting in apoptosis of resistant cells. In addition, whereas HRG reversed lapatinib-mediated antitumor effects in parental HER2+ breast cancer cells, neratinib was comparatively resistant to the effects of HRG in parental cells. Finally, we showed that HRG expression is an independent negative predictor of clinical outcome in HER2+ breast cancers, providing potential clinical relevance to our findings.
Molecular analysis of acquired therapeutic resistance to lapatinib identified a new resistance mechanism based on incomplete and "leaky" inhibition of EGFR by lapatinib. The selective pressure applied by incomplete inhibition of the EGFR drug target resulted in selection of ligand-driven feedback that sustained EGFR activation in the face of constant exposure to the drug. Inadequate target inhibition driven by a ligand-mediated autocrine feedback loop may represent a broader mechanism of therapeutic resistance to HER TKIs and suggests adopting a different strategy for selecting more effective TKIs to advance into the clinic.
PMCID: PMC3978995  PMID: 24044505
4.  New developments in the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer 
Approximately 20%–30% of metastatic breast cancers show increased expression of the human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) tyrosine kinase. Two HER2-specific therapies are currently approved for clinical treatment of patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer. Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody against HER2 and is approved for first-line treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. Lapatinib is a small molecule dual inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptor and HER2 tyrosine kinases, and is approved for trastuzumab-refractory disease. Although trastuzumab is a highly effective therapy for patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer, a significant number of patients in the initial clinical trials of trastuzumab monotherapy showed resistance to trastuzumab-based therapy. Further, among those who did respond, the initial trials indicated that the median time to progression was less than 1 year. Similarly, lapatinib is effective in a subset of trastuzumab-refractory cases, but the majority of patients display resistance. This review discusses the multiple molecular mechanisms of resistance that have been proposed in the literature. In addition, novel agents that are being tested for efficacy against HER2-positive breast cancer, including the antibodies pertuzumab and trastuzumab-DM1 and the immunotoxin affitoxin, are reviewed. The introduction of trastuzumab has revolutionized the clinical care of patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer and has resulted in dramatic reductions in recurrences of early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer. The development and implementation of gene- and protein-based assays that measure potential molecular predictors of trastuzumab resistance will allow individualization of HER2-targeted therapeutic approaches, and may ultimately improve treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3712518  PMID: 23869176
ErbB2; Herceptin; trastuzumab; drug resistance; neratinib; lapatinib; affitoxin
5.  New developments in the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer 
Approximately 20%–30% of metastatic breast cancers show increased expression of the human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) tyrosine kinase. Two HER2-specific therapies are currently approved for clinical treatment of patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer. Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody against HER2 and is approved for first-line treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. Lapatinib is a small molecule dual inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptor and HER2 tyrosine kinases, and is approved for trastuzumab-refractory disease. Although trastuzumab is a highly effective therapy for patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer, a significant number of patients in the initial clinical trials of trastuzumab monotherapy showed resistance to trastuzumab-based therapy. Further, among those who did respond, the initial trials indicated that the median time to progression was less than 1 year. Similarly, lapatinib is effective in a subset of trastuzumab-refractory cases, but the majority of patients display resistance. This review discusses the multiple molecular mechanisms of resistance that have been proposed in the literature. In addition, novel agents that are being tested for efficacy against HER2-positive breast cancer, including the antibodies pertuzumab and trastuzumab-DM1 and the immunotoxin affitoxin, are reviewed. The introduction of trastuzumab has revolutionized the clinical care of patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer and has resulted in dramatic reductions in recurrences of early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer. The development and implementation of gene- and protein-based assays that measure potential molecular predictors of trastuzumab resistance will allow individualization of HER2-targeted therapeutic approaches, and may ultimately improve treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3712518  PMID: 23869176
ErbB2; Herceptin; trastuzumab; drug resistance; neratinib; lapatinib; affitoxin
6.  Role of lapatinib in the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic breast cancer 
Lapatinib is a dual tyrosine kinase inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR/ErbB1) and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2/ErbB2). EGFR and HER2 overexpression is associated with aggressive breast cancer with a high risk of disease relapse and death. Although lapatinib targets both EGFR and HER2, its effects on HER2 appear to be more critical. The role of lapatinib in the first-line setting remains unclear. A phase II first-line monotherapy lapatinib trial in HER2-therapy-naïve metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients confirms efficacy in HER2-positive tumors. Retrospective analysis of a phase III, first-line MBC study confirmed incremental benefit from lapatinib and paclitaxel over paclitaxel alone in HER2-positive disease. A prospective phase III study confirms superiority of letrozole and lapatinib over letrozole alone in HER2-positive MBC. Further investigation is required to define the potential first-line role for lapatinib. Particular strengths appear to be its manageable toxicity profile, lack of cross resistance with trastuzumab, activity in central nervous system disease, and synergy in combination with other anticancer therapy. Current limitations are lack of dosing recommendations from early trials, lack of predictive biomarkers beyond HER2 status, and lack of large prospective phase III trials for HER2-positive disease in the first-line setting. The role of lapatinib in HER2-negative disease is unclear.
PMCID: PMC3004582  PMID: 21188093
lapatinib; HER2; metastatic; first-line
7.  Profiling and targeting HER2-positive breast cancer using trastuzumab emtansine 
This article reviews the mechanism of action of trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1), existing clinical data relating to its use for human growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive breast cancer, potential pathways of resistance, and ongoing studies evaluating this novel agent.
The development of HER2-targeted therapies has dramatically improved clinical outcomes for patients with any stage of HER2-positive breast cancer. Although the positive effect of these treatments cannot be overstated, treatment resistance develops in the vast majority of those diagnosed with stage IV HER2-positive breast cancer. Moreover, HER2-directed therapies are most effective when combined with cytotoxic chemotherapy. The need for chemotherapy leads to significant adverse effects and a clear decrease in quality of life for those dealing with a chronic incurable disease. T-DM1 is a recently developed, novel antibody–drug conjugate in which highly potent maytanisinoid chemotherapy is stably linked to the HER2-targeted monoclonal antibody, trastuzumab.
Preclinical and phase 1–3 clinical data support the significant antitumor activity of T-DM1. Importantly, several randomized studies also now demonstrate its clear superiority in terms of tolerability compared with standard chemotherapy-containing regimens. Its role in the treatment of trastuzumab-resistant metastatic breast cancer has now been established on the basis of the results of two phase 3 randomized studies, EMILIA (An Open-label Study of Trastuzumab Emtansine (T-DM1) vs Capecitabine + Lapatinib in Patients With HER2-positive Locally Advanced or Metastatic Breast Cancer) and TH3RESA (A Study of Trastuzumab Emtansine in Comparison With Treatment of Physician’s Choice in Patients With HER2-positive Breast Cancer Who Have Received at Least Two Prior Regimens of HER2-directed Therapy). The most common toxicities seen with T-DM1 are thrombocytopenia and an elevation in liver transaminases. Significant cardiac toxicity has not been demonstrated. Both in vitro cell line–based studies as well as exploratory analyses of archived tumor samples from the clinical trials are seeking to understand potential mechanisms of resistance to T-DM1. Ongoing studies are also evaluating the use of T-DM1 in the first-line metastatic, neoadjuvant, and adjuvant settings, as well as in combination with other targeted therapies.
T-DM1 represents the first successfully developed antibody drug conjugate for the treatment of HER2-positive advanced breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4207068  PMID: 25378946
HER2; T-DM1; trastuzumab emtansine; ado-trastuzumab emtansine; metastatic breast cancer; Kadcyla
8.  HER2-positive male breast cancer: an update 
Although rare, male breast cancer (MBC) remains a substantial cause for morbidity and mortality in men. Based on age frequency distribution, age-specific incidence rate pattern, and prognostic factor profiles, MBC is considered similar to postmenopausal breast cancer (BC). Compared with female BC (FBC), MBC cases are more often hormonal receptor (estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor [ER/PR]) positive and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) negative. Treatment of MBC patients follows the same indications as female postmenopausal with surgery, systemic therapy, and radiotherapy. To date, ER/PR and HER2 status provides baseline predictive information used in selecting optimal adjuvant/neoadjuvant therapy and in the selection of therapy for recurrent or metastatic disease. HER2 represents a very interesting molecular target and a number of compounds (trastuzumab [Herceptin®; F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Basel, Switzerland] and lapatinib [Tykerb®, GlaxoSmithKline, London, UK]) are currently under clinical evaluation. Particularly, trastuzumab, a monoclonal antibody which selectively binds the extracellular domain of HER2, has become an important therapeutic agent for women with HER2-positive (HER2+) BC. Currently, data regarding the use of trastuzumab in MBC patients is limited and only few case reports exist. In all cases, MBC patients received trastuzumab concomitantly with other drugs and no severe toxicity above grade 3 was observed. However, MBC patients that would be candidate for trastuzumab therapy (ie, HER2+/ER+ or HER2+/ER− MBCs) represent only a very small percentage of MBC cases. This is noteworthy, when taking into account that trastuzumab is an important and expensive component of systemic BC therapy. Since there is no data supporting the fact that response to therapy is different for men or women, we concluded that systemic therapy in MBC should be considered on the same basis as for FBC. Particularly in male patients, trastuzumab should be considered exclusively for advanced disease or high-risk HER2+ early BCs. On the other hand, lapatinib (Tykerb), a novel oral dual tyrosine kinase inhibitor that targets both HER2 and epidermal growth factor receptor, may represent an interesting and promising therapeutic agent for trastuzumab-resistant MBC patients.
PMCID: PMC3846466  PMID: 24367166
target therapy; trastuzumab; lapatinib
9.  PI3K pathway activation results in low efficacy of both trastuzumab and lapatinib 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:248.
Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) is the most crucial ErbB receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) family member in HER2-positive (refered to HER2-overexpressing) breast cancer which are dependent on or "addictive" to the Phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) pathway. HER2-related target drugs trastuzumab and lapatinib have been the foundation of treatment of HER2--positive breast cancer. This study was designed to explore the relationship between PI3K pathway activation and the sensitivity to lapatinib in HER2--positive metastatic breast cancer patients pretreated with anthracyclins, taxanes and trastuzumab.
Sixty-seven HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer patients were recruited into a global lapatinib Expanded Access Program and 57 patients have primary tumor specimens available for determination of PI3K pathway status. PTEN status was determined by immunohistochemical staining and PIK3CA mutations were detected via PCR sequencing. All patients were treated with lapatinib 1250 mg/day continuously and capecitabine 1000 mg/m2 twice daily on a 2-week-on and 1-week-off schedule until disease progression, death, withdrawal of informed consent, or intolerable toxicity.
PIK3CA mutations and PTEN loss were detected in 12.3% (7/57) and 31.6% (18/57) of the patients, respectively. Twenty-two patients with PI3K pathway activation (defined as PIK3CA mutation and/or PTEN expression loss) had a lower clinical benefit rate (36.4% versus 68.6%, P = 0.017) and a lower overall response rate (9.1% versus 31.4%, P = 0.05), when compared with the 35 patients with no activation. A retrospective analysis of first trastuzumab-containing regimen treatment data showed that PI3K pathway activation correlated with a shorter median progression-free survival (4.5 versus 9.0 months, P = 0.013).
PIK3CA mutations occur more frequently in elder patients for HER2-positive breast cancer. PIK3CA mutations and PTEN loss are not mutually exclusive. PI3K pathway activation resulting from PTEN loss or PIK3CA mutations may lead to drug resistance to lapatinib and trastuzumab ( number, NCT00338247).
PMCID: PMC3141770  PMID: 21676217
10.  Trastuzumab-DM1: A Clinical Update of the Novel Antibody-Drug Conjugate for HER2-Overexpressing Breast Cancer 
Molecular Medicine  2012;18(1):1473-1479.
Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody targeted against the HER2 tyrosine kinase receptor. Although trastuzumab is a very active agent in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer, the majority of patients with metastatic HER2-overexpressing breast cancer who initially respond to trastuzumab develop resistance within 1 year of initiation of treatment and, in the adjuvant setting, progress despite trastuzumab-based therapy. The antibody-drug conjugate trastuzumab-DM1 (T-DM1) was designed to combine the biological activity of trastuzumab with the targeted delivery of a highly potent antimicrotubule agent, DM1 (N-methyl-N-[3-mercapto-1-oxopropyl]-l-alanine ester of maytansinol), a maytansine derivative, to HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells. T-DM1 is the first antibody-drug conjugate with a nonreducible thioether linker in clinical trials. Phase I and II clinical trials of T-DM1 as a single agent and in combination with paclitaxel, docetaxel and pertuzumab have shown clinical activity and a favorable safety profile in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. Two randomized phase III trials of T-DM1 are awaiting final results; the EMILIA trial is evaluating T-DM1 compared with lapatinib plus capecitabine, and early positive results have been reported. The MARIANNE trial is evaluating T-DM1 plus placebo versus T-DM1 plus pertuzumab versus trastuzumab plus a taxane. Here, we summarize evidence from clinical studies and discuss the potential clinical implications of T-DM1.
PMCID: PMC3563710  PMID: 23196784
11.  Breast cancer (metastatic) 
Clinical Evidence  2010;2010:0811.
Median survival from metastatic breast cancer is 12 months without treatment, but young people can survive up to 20 years with the disease, whereas in other metastatic cancers this would be considered unusual.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of first-line hormonal treatment? What are the effects of second-line hormonal treatment in women who have not responded to tamoxifen? What are the effects of first-line chemotherapy? What are the effects of first-line chemotherapy in combination with a monoclonal antibody? What are the effects of second-line chemotherapy? What are the effects of treatments for bone metastases? What are the effects of treatments for spinal cord metastases? What are the effects of treatments for cerebral or choroidal metastases? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to June 2009 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
We found 77 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: first-line hormonal treatment using anti-oestrogens (tamoxifen), ovarian ablation, progestins, selective aromatase inhibitors, or combined gonadorelin analogues plus tamoxifen; second-line hormonal treatment using progestins or selective aromatase inhibitors; first-line non-taxane combination chemotherapy; first-line taxane-based combination chemotherapy; first-line high- versus low-dose standard chemotherapy; first-line chemotherapy plus monoclonal antibody (bevacizumab, trastuzumab); first-line chemotherapy plus tyrosine kinase inhibitor (lapatinib); second-line taxane-based combination chemotherapy; second-line capecitabine or semi-synthetic vinca alkaloids for anthracycline-resistant disease; second-line chemotherapy plus tyrosine kinase inhibitor (lapatinib); and treatment for bone, spinal, or choroidal metastases using bisphosphonates, intrathecal chemotherapy, radiotherapy (alone or plus corticosteroids) radiation sensitisers, or surgical resection.
Key Points
Median survival from metastatic breast cancer is 12 months without treatment, but young people can survive up to 20 years with the disease, whereas in other metastatic cancers this would be considered very unusual.
Anti-oestrogens (tamoxifen) result in tumour responses in about one third of women with oestrogen receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer when used as first-line treatment, but most women eventually develop resistant disease. Progestins and ovarian ablation may be as effective as tamoxifen as first-line treatment but are associated with more adverse effects, while adding tamoxifen to gonadorelin analogues increases survival and response rates.Selective aromatase inhibitors may be as effective in delaying disease progression as tamoxifen for first-line treatment, and as effective as tamoxifen or progestins as second-line treatment in postmenopausal women, with similar overall survival. The benefit may be greatest in oestrogen receptor-positive women.
Hormonal treatment using tamoxifen or progestins may be preferable to chemotherapy as first-line treatment in women with oestrogen receptor-positive disease.
First-line chemotherapy is associated with an objective tumour response in 40% to 60% of women, of median duration of 6 to 12 months. Complete remission may occur in some women, whereas others show little or no response. First-line classical non-taxane combination chemotherapy, especially those containing anthracyclines, may be more effective than modified regimens and as effective as hormonal treatments in prolonging survival.The optimum duration of chemotherapy is unknown. Increasing the dose may increase serious adverse effects without prolonging survival.
Adding trastuzumab to standard first-line chemotherapy increases response rates and overall survival in women with HER2/neu overexpression, but risks of cardiac function are increased in women also receiving anthracyclines. Adding bevacizumab or lapatinib to standard first-line chemotherapy may also be more effective than standard chemotherapy alone but we cannot be certain as high-quality evidence is still emerging.
Taxane-based chemotherapy may increase tumour response and survival compared with some non-taxane regimens as second-line treatment. No clear benefit has been found in first-line treatment.
We don't know how capecitabine or semisynthetic vinca alkaloids perform as second-line treatment for anthracycline-resistant disease. Adding bevacizumab or lapatinib to capecitabine may also be more effective at increasing response rates and improving quality of life than second-line capecitabine alone, and adding lapatinib may also increase survival, but we cannot be certain as high-quality evidence is still emerging.
Bisphosphonates reduce skeletal complications from bone metastases, while radiotherapy may reduce pain and complications from bone metastases, cranial nerve or spinal cord compression, and in brain or choroidal metastases.
PMCID: PMC3217794  PMID: 21418674
12.  Lapatinib: new opportunities for management of breast cancer 
Approximately 20% of new diagnosed breast cancers overexpress the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (EGFR2), also known as erythroblastic leukemia viral oncogene homolog 2 (ERBB2) protein, as a consequence of ERBB2 gene amplification, resulting in a poor prognosis. Clinical outcome can be substantially improved by ERBB2-targeted therapy. Lapatinib is a potent, orally bioavailable small molecule that reversibly and selectively inhibits epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR1 or ERBB1) and ERBB2 tyrosine kinases. Lapatinib binds the adenosine triphosphate-binding site of the receptor’s intracellular domain to inhibit tumor cell growth. This review summarizes the pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, efficacy, and tolerability of lapatinib, and reviews both Food and Drug Administration-approved and investigational uses of lapatinib in breast cancer therapy. The drug is generally well tolerated in patients, with diarrhea and rashes being the most common (usually mild or moderate) adverse effects. Unlike trastuzumab, lapatinib has infrequent adverse effects on cardiac function. Lapatinib has substantial activity for advanced ERBB2-positive breast cancer, particularly in combination with capecitabine, following progression after anthracyclines, taxanes, and trastuzumab. Lapatinib combined with capecitabine yielded significant improvements in time to progression and response rate compared with capecitabine alone. This drug can also be combined with letrozole for the treatment of postmenopausal women with ERBB2-positive breast cancer, for whom hormonal therapy is indicated. Lapatinib has shown early promise in treatment of central nervous system metastasis and is being further evaluated in various clinical settings.
PMCID: PMC3846530  PMID: 24367169
lapatinib; trastuzumab; ERBB family; ERBB2; breast cancer; capecitabine; letrozole
The monoclonal antibody trastuzumab and the EGFR/HER2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib improve the clinical outcome of patients with HER2-overexpressing breast cancer. However, the majority of metastatic cancers will eventually progress suggesting the need for other therapies. Because HER2 overexpression persists, we hypothesized that the anti-HER2 immune response induced by cancer vaccines would be an effective strategy for treating trastuzumab and lapatinib-refractory tumors. Furthermore, we hypothesized that the antibody response could synergize with lapatinib to enhance tumor inhibition. We developed a recombinant adenoviral vector expressing a kinase-inactive HER2 (Ad-HER2-ki) to use as a cancer vaccine. Vaccine-induced polyclonal HER2-specific anti-serum was analyzed for receptor internalization and signaling effects alone and in combination with lapatinib. Ad-HER2-ki vaccine induced potent T cell and antibody responses in mice and the vaccine-induced polyclonal HER2-specific anti-serum mediated receptor internalization and degradation much more effectively than trastuzumab. Our in vitro studies demonstrated that HER2-vaccine induced antibodies effectively caused a decrease in HER2 expression, but when combined with lapatinib caused significant inhibition of HER2 signaling, decreased pERK and pAKT levels, and reduced breast tumor cell proliferation. In addition, a known mechanism of resistance to lapatinib, induction of survivin, was inhibited. The combination of Ad-HER2-ki plus lapatinib also showed superior anti-tumor efficacy in vivo. Based on these results, we feel clinical studies using this approach to target HER2-overexpressing breast cancer, including trastuzumab- and lapatinib-resistant tumors is warranted.
PMCID: PMC2856803  PMID: 19856307
HER2; antitumor immunity; immunization; breast cancer
14.  The Role of Targeted Agents in the Treatment of Metastatic Breast Cancer 
Breast Care  2010;5(3):134-141.
To date, blockade of growth factor receptors is the mainstay of targeted therapy in metastatic breast cancer (mBC). Monoclonal antibodies such as trastuzumab and bevacizumab represent the first generation of molecular-based therapies. Both the HER2 inhibitors and the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) antagonists have shown synergism with a broad spectrum of established cytotoxins, thus being approved for first-line treatment of mBC in combination with taxanes. As a next step, tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have been integrated into daily routine as an alternative approach for targeting HER2: The dual HER1/2 inhibitor lapatinib demonstrated activity in trastuzumab-pretreated mBC patients in combination with capecitabine. Furthermore, chemotherapy-free regimens (trastuzumab or lapatinib plus aromatase inhibitors) have been identified as additional options for hormone receptor (HR)- and HER2-positive patients. Recently published data indicate that a combination of two biologicals such as lapatinib and trastuzumab can be effective as a treatment beyond trastuzumab related progression. Multitarget TKIs have the potential to inhibit several signaling pathways involved in breast cancer-related angiogenesis. Until now, they have failed to show a clear benefit in mBC. On the other hand, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibition, mediated by a new class of small molecules, is an interesting area of investigation. Future directions of research in HER2-positive breast cancer focus on the evaluation of novel antibodies (pertuzumab, T-DM1), and irreversible TKIs (neratinib, BIBW 2992) and inhibitors of HER2-related downstream signaling (mTOR, TORC 1/2, PI3K/Akt) and of receptor cross-talk (IGFR).
PMCID: PMC2931051  PMID: 20847826
Breast cancer, metastatic; Anti-angiogenesis; Antibody; PARP inhibition; Multitargeting
15.  A phase II, randomized, multicenter study evaluating the combination of lapatinib and vinorelbine in women with ErbB2 overexpressing metastatic breast cancer 
Lapatinib is approved in combination with capecitabine for treatment of patients with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive metastatic breast cancer (MBC) who have progressed on prior trastuzumab in the metastatic setting. Vinorelbine is an important chemotherapy option for MBC. We evaluated efficacy and safety of lapatinib plus vinorelbine, compared with lapatinib plus capecitabine, in women with HER2-positive MBC. In this open-label, multicenter, phase II study, eligible patients (N = 112) were randomized 2:1 to lapatinib plus vinorelbine [(N = 75) 1,250 mg orally once daily (QD) continuously plus 20 mg/m2/day intravenously] or lapatinib plus capecitabine [(N = 37) 1,250 mg orally QD continuously plus 2,000 mg/m2/day orally, 2 doses]. The primary endpoint was progression-free survival (PFS). Other endpoints included overall survival (OS) and safety. Patients progressing within the study were given the option of crossover to the other treatment arm; time to second progression was an exploratory endpoint. Patient demographics, stratification, and prognostic factors were well balanced between treatments. Median PFS in both arms was 6.2 months [95 % confidence interval (CI) 4.2, 8.8 (lapatinib plus vinorelbine); 4.4, 8.3 (lapatinib plus capecitabine)]. Median OS on lapatinib plus vinorelbine was 24.3 months (95 % CI 16.4, NE) and 19.4 months (95 % CI 16.4, 27.2) on lapatinib plus capecitabine. In total, 42 patients opted to cross over; median PFS was 3.2 months (95 % CI 1.7, 5.1) on lapatinib plus vinorelbine and 4.0 months (95 % CI 2.1, 5.8) on lapatinib plus capecitabine. Lapatinib plus vinorelbine offers an effective treatment option for patients with HER2-overexpressing MBC, having displayed comparable efficacy and tolerability rates to lapatinib plus capecitabine.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10549-013-2828-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3907671  PMID: 24402830
Breast cancer; HER2; Lapatinib; Vinorelbine; Capecitabine
16.  Loss of Phosphatase and Tensin Homolog or Phosphoinositol-3 Kinase Activation and Response to Trastuzumab or Lapatinib in Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2–Overexpressing Locally Advanced Breast Cancers 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2010;29(2):166-173.
Phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) loss or activating mutations of phosphoinositol-3 (PI3) kinase (PIK3CA) may be associated with trastuzumab resistance. Trastuzumab, the humanized human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) monoclonal antibody, and lapatinib, an epidermal growth factor receptor/HER2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor, are both established treatments for HER2-overexpressing breast cancers. Understanding of the cellular response to HER2-targeted therapies is needed to tailor treatments and to identify patients less likely to benefit.
We evaluated the effect of trastuzumab or lapatinib in three HER2-overexpressing cell lines. We confirmed the in vitro observations in two neoadjuvant clinical trials in patients with HER2 overexpression; 35 patients received trastuzumab as a single agent for the first 3 weeks, then docetaxel every 3 weeks for 12 weeks (trastuzumab regimen), whereas 49 patients received lapatinib as a single agent for 6 weeks, followed by trastuzumab/docetaxel for 12 weeks before primary surgery (lapatinib regimen). Apoptosis, Ki67, p-MAPK, p-AKT, and PTEN were assessed by immunohistochemistry. Genomic DNA was sequenced for PIK3CA mutations.
Under low PTEN conditions, in vitro data indicate that lapatinib alone and in combination with trastuzumab was effective in decreasing p-MAPK and p-AKT levels, whereas trastuzumab was ineffective. In the clinical trials, we confirmed that low PTEN or activating mutation in PIK3CA conferred resistance to the trastuzumab regimen (P = .015), whereas low PTEN tumors were associated with a high pathologic complete response rate (P = .007).
Activation of PI3 kinase pathway is associated with trastuzumab resistance, whereas low PTEN predicted for response to lapatinib. These observations support clinical trials with the combination of both agents.
PMCID: PMC3058274  PMID: 21135276
17.  Recent advances in the development of anti-HER2 antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates 
Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-targeted therapies have revolutionized the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer, both in the metastatic and early stage settings. While trastuzumab and lapatinib had been the mainstays of treatment in combination with chemotherapy, innate and acquired resistance to these therapies occur. More recently, two additional HER2-directed therapies have been approved for HER2-positive breast cancer. Pertuzumab is a humanized monoclonal antibody that binds to the extracellular portion of the receptor on a domain distinct from the binding site of trastuzumab. The addition of pertuzumab to trastuzumab results in synergistic tumor cell inhibition and has been shown to significantly improve clinical outcomes for patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer (MBC) compared to trastuzumab plus chemotherapy alone. In addition, ado-trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1), a novel antibody-drug conjugate linking trastuzumab with the cytotoxic maytansinoid, DM1, is an effective treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer that has progressed on other HER2-directed therapies. Both pertuzumab and T-DM1 are relatively well tolerated. This review presents the mechanisms of action as well as phase I, II and III clinical data describing the safety and efficacy of pertuzumab and T-DM1 for HER2-positive breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4260046  PMID: 25568875
Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2); breast cancer; antibody-drug conjugate; pertuzumab; T-DM1
18.  Resistance to HER2-directed antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2011;11(9):793-800.
The antibody trastuzumab and the tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib are approved by the FDA for the treatment of HER2-overexpressing breast cancer. These anti-HER2 drugs are changing the natural history of HER2-overexpressing breast cancer. However, therapeutic resistance to trastuzumab or lapatinib, as either single-agents or in combination with chemotherapy in the metastatic setting, typically occurs within months of starting therapy. Several mechanisms of trastuzumab-resistance have been reported that include signaling from other HER receptors, signaling from receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) outside of the HER (ErbB) family, increased phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase signaling, and the presence of truncated forms of HER2. Mechanisms of resistance to lapatinib also point to increased phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase signaling as well as derepression/activation of compensatory survival pathways. In this review, we discuss how these models and mechanisms enhance our understanding of the clinical resistance to HER2-directed therapies.
PMCID: PMC3230295  PMID: 21307659
HER2 (ERBB2); trastuzumab; lapatinib; drug resistance; antibodies; tyrosine kinase inhibitors
19.  Role of HER2-Targeted Agents in Adjuvant Treatment for Breast Cancer 
Approximately 20% of breast cancers overexpress human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) protein, mainly as a result of gene amplification. The receptor tyrosine kinase is believed to play a critical role in the pathogenesis and further proliferation of these tumors. The application of trastuzumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody against the extracellular domain of HER2 protein, to HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer has significantly improved treatment outcomes. Following this success, several phase III trials have evaluated the role of trastuzumab in the adjuvant setting, with the result that trastuzumab use is now the standard of care for most HER2-positive early breast cancer patients. In this paper, we review these pivotal phase III trials. We also discuss unresolved issues in adjuvant treatment with trastuzumab, including target patient population, sequential or concurrent use with chemotherapy or radiation, treatment duration, cardiotoxicity, and the possibility of eliminating chemotherapy. Following confirmation of its ability to partially overcome trastuzumab resistance, we also discuss the role of lapatinib in adjuvant use.
PMCID: PMC3263614  PMID: 22295205
20.  The potential for trastuzumab emtansine in human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 positive metastatic breast cancer: latest evidence and ongoing studies 
The treatment of breast cancer that is driven by amplification and overexpression of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) has been drastically improved by the development of HER2-targeted therapies including trastuzumab and lapatinib. While outcomes for patients diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer have been greatly impacted by these therapies, treatment resistance is common and toxicity to standard regimens remains a therapeutic challenge. Trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1) is a novel antibody drug conjugate that consists of the HER2-targeted monoclonal antibody, trastuzumab, joined via a stable linker to a derivative of maytansine, a highly potent cytotoxic chemotherapy. While other antibody drug conjugates have been developed clinically, this is the first in its class that maintains the antitumor properties of the HER2-targeted antibody, trastuzumab, and also avoids release of the chemotherapy until the molecule is taken up inside the HER2-overexpressing cancer cell. Several phase I studies have shown T-DM1 is safe, tolerable and has activity in trastuzumab- and lapatinib-pretreated breast cancer. Moreover, phase II studies are now being reported that confirm its safety and clinical efficacy in both the frontline and heavily pretreated settings. Preliminary data from phase II studies evaluating its use in combination with other cytotoxics have also been reported and several large phase III trials are underway to evaluate its use in the HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer setting. This paper aims to provide a detailed review of the preclinical and clinical evidence relating to the mechanism of action, efficacy and safety of T-DM1 for the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3424498  PMID: 22942906
breast cancer; HER2-positive; T-DM1; trastuzumab emtansine
21.  Potential of antibody–drug conjugates and novel therapeutics in breast cancer management 
OncoTargets and therapy  2014;7:491-500.
Progress in the treatment of cancer over the past decade has been slow. Targeting a mutated gene of an individual patient tumor, tumor-guided agents, and the first draft of the human genome sequence have created an overenthusiasm to achieve personalized medicine. However, we now know that this effort is misleading. Extreme interpatient and intratumor heterogeneity, scarce knowledge in how genome-wide mutational landscape and epigenetic changes affect transcriptional processes, gene expression, signaling transduction networks and cell regulation, and clinical assessment of temporary efficacy of targeted drugs explain the limitations of these currently available agents. Trastuzumab and a few other monoclonal antibodies or small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) represent an exception to this rule. By blocking ligand-binding receptor in patients with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) amplification and overexpression, trastuzumab added to chemotherapy in HER2-positive patients has been proven to provide significant overall survival benefit in both metastatic and adjuvant settings. Lapatinib, a small-molecule dual inhibitor (TKI) of both HER2 and EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) pathways, has an antitumor activity translated into progression-free survival benefit in HER2-positive metastatic patients previously treated with a taxane, an anthracycline, and trastuzumab. Despite these advances, ~25% of patients with HER2-positive breast cancer experience recurrence in the adjuvant setting, while in the metastatic setting, median survival time is 25 months. In this review, we discuss the safety, efficacy, and limitations of the trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1) conjugate in the treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. We also highlight Phase III randomized trials, currently underway, using either the T-DM1 conjugate or various combinations of monoclonal antibodies and TKIs. Moreover, in contrast with all these agents developed on the basis of “central dogma” of simplified reductionist transcription and single gene–phenotype linear relationship, we summarize the emerging, amazing era of next-generation, transcriptional circuitry and intracellular signaling network-based drugs guided by the latest advances in genome science and dynamics of network biology.
PMCID: PMC3969339  PMID: 24711706
trastuzumab emtansine; T-DM1; HER2 disease; targeted agents; cancer; genome; monoclonal antibodies
22.  Cost-effectiveness of lapatinib plus letrozole in her2-positive, hormone receptor–positive metastatic breast cancer in Canada 
Current Oncology  2013;20(5):e371-e387.
The cost-effectiveness of first-line treatment with lapatinib plus letrozole for postmenopausal women with hormone receptor–positive (hr+), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2–positive (her2+) metastatic breast cancer (mbc) has not been assessed from the Canadian health care system and societal perspectives.
A partitioned survival analysis model with 3 health states (alive, pre-progression; alive, post-progression; dead) was developed to estimate direct and indirect costs and quality-adjusted life years (qalys) with lapatinib–letrozole, letrozole, anastrozole, or trastuzumab–anastrozole as first-line treatment. Clinical inputs for lapatinib–letrozole and letrozole were taken from the EGF30008 trial (NCT00073528). Clinical inputs for anastrozole and trastuzumab–anastrozole were taken from a network meta-analysis of published studies. Drug costs were obtained from the manufacturer’s price list, the Quebec list of medications, and imsBrogan. Other costs were taken from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan’s Schedule of Benefits and Fees and published studies. A 10-year time horizon was used. Costs and qalys were discounted at 5% annually. Deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were performed to assess the effects of changes in model parameters.
Quality-adjusted life years gained with lapatinib–letrozole were 0.236 compared with trastuzumab–anastrozole, 0.440 compared with letrozole, and 0.568 compared with anastrozole. Assuming a health care system perspective, incremental costs were $5,805, $67,029, and $67,472 respectively. Given a cost per qaly threshold of $100,000, the probability that lapatinib–letrozole is preferred was 21% compared with letrozole, 36% compared with anastrozole, and 68% compared with trastuzumab–anastrozole. Results from the societal perspective were similar.
In postmenopausal women with hr+/her2+ mbc receiving first-line treatment, lapatinib–letrozole may not be cost-effective compared with letrozole or anastrozole, but may be cost-effective compared with trastuzumab–anastrozole.
PMCID: PMC3805407  PMID: 24155635
Metastatic breast cancer; lapatinib; letrozole; trastuzumab; anastrozole; cost-effectiveness; cost–utility
23.  Human breast cancer cells harboring a gatekeeper T798M mutation in HER2 overexpress EGFR ligands and are sensitive to dual inhibition of EGFR and HER2 
Mutations in receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) genes can confer resistance to receptor-targeted therapies. A T798M mutation in the HER2 oncogene has been shown to confer resistance to the tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) lapatinib. We studied the mechanisms of HER2-T798M-induced resistance to identify potential strategies to overcome that resistance.
Experimental Design
HER2-T798M was stably expressed in BT474 and MCF10A cells. Mutant cells and xenografts were evaluated for effects of the mutation on proliferation, signaling, and tumor growth after treatment with combinations of inhibitors targeting the EGFR-HER2-HER3-PI3K axis.
A low 3% allelic frequency of the T798M mutant shifted10-fold the IC50 of lapatinib. In mutant-expressing cells, lapatinib did not block basal phosphorylation of HER2, HER3, AKT and ERK1/2. In vitro kinase assays showed increased autocatalytic activity of HER2-T798M. HER3 association with PI3K p85 was increased in mutant-expressing cells. BT474-T798M cells were also resistant to the HER2 antibody trastuzumab. These cells were sensitive to the pan-PI3K inhibitors BKM120 and XL147 and the irreversible HER2/EGFR TKI afatinib but not the MEK1/2 inhibitor CI-1040, suggesting continued dependence of the mutant cells on ErbB receptors and downstream PI3K signaling. BT474-T798M cells showed increased expression of the EGFR ligands EGF, TGFα, amphiregulin and HB-EGF. Addition of the EGFR neutralizing antibody cetuximab or lapatinib restored trastuzumab sensitivity of BT474-T798M cells and xenografts, suggesting increased EGFR ligand production was causally associated with drug resistance.
Simultaneous blockade of HER2 and EGFR should be an effective treatment strategy against HER2 gene-amplified breast cancer cells harboring T798M mutant alleles.
PMCID: PMC3809918  PMID: 23948973
HER2; kinase domain mutations; EGFR; lapatinib; trastuzumab; cetuximab; breast cancer
24.  Lapatinib for Advanced or Metastatic Breast Cancer 
The Oncologist  2012;17(4):536-542.
The use of lapatinib for the treatment of patients with metastatic breast cancer is examined.
Lapatinib is a potent reversible and selective inhibitor of the tyrosine kinase domains of epidermal growth factor receptor and human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER)-2 that exerts its action by competitive binding to the intracellular ATP-binding site of the receptor. It is registered for the treatment of advanced or metastatic HER-2+ breast cancer in combination with capecitabine and for hormone receptor–positive breast cancer in combination with an aromatase inhibitor. Lapatinib administered orally once daily is moderately to well tolerated, with rash and gastrointestinal adverse events as the main toxicities. In studies on the efficacy of lapatinib, direct comparisons between lapatinib and trastuzumab are lacking. Results of ongoing randomized phase III studies with lapatinib or trastuzumab in combination with taxanes as first-line agents for metastatic breast cancer as well as in the neoadjuvant and adjuvant settings are awaited.
PMCID: PMC3336826  PMID: 22477724
Lapatinib; Clinical pharmacology; EGFR; HER-2; Breast cancer; Review
25.  Dual blockade of HER2 in HER2-overexpressing tumor cells does not completely eliminate HER3 function 
Dual blockade of HER2 with trastuzumab with lapatinib or with pertuzumab is a superior treatment approach compared to single agent HER2 inhibitors. However, many HER2-overexpressing breast cancers still escape from this combinatorial approach. Inhibition of HER2 and downstream phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K)/AKT causes a transcriptional and post-translational upregulation of HER3 which, in turn, counteracts the antitumor action of the HER2-directed therapies. We hypothesized that suppression of HER3 would synergize with dual blockade of HER2 in breast cancer cells sensitive and refractory to HER2 antagonists.
Experimental Design
Inhibition of HER2/HER3 in HER2+ breast cancer cell lines was evaluated by western blot. We analyzed drug-induced apoptosis and 2- and 3-dimensional growth in vitro. Growth inhibition of PI3K was examined in vivo in xenografts treated with combinations of trastuzumab, lapatinib, and the HER3 neutralizing monoclonal antibody U3-1287.
Treatment with U3-1287 blocked the upregulation of total and phosphorylated HER3 that followed treatment with lapatinib and trastuzumab and, in turn, enhanced the anti-tumor action of the combination against trastuzumab-sensitive and -resistant cells. Mice bearing HER2+ xenografts treated with lapatinib, trastuzumab, and U3-1287 exhibited fewer recurrences and better survival compared to mice treated with lapatinib and trastuzumab.
Dual blockade of HER2 with trastuzumab and lapatinib does not eliminate the compensatory upregulation of HER3. Therapeutic inhibitors of HER3 should be considered as part of multi-drug combinations aimed at completely and rapidly disabling the HER2 network in HER2-overexpressing breast cancers.
PMCID: PMC3563762  PMID: 23224399
HER2; HER3; lapatinib; trastuzumab; breast cancer

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