BACKGROUND - There is the need to identify new prognostic markers to refine risk stratification for HER2-positive early breast cancer patients. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) with distant disease-free survival (DDFS) in patients with HER2-positive early breast cancer enrolled in the ShortHER adjuvant trial which compared 9 weeks versus 1-year trastuzumab in addition to chemotherapy, and to test the interaction between TILs and treatment arm.
PATIENTS AND METHODS - Stromal TILs were assessed for 866 cases on centralized hematoxylin and eosin-stained tumor slides. The association of TILs as 10% increments with DDFS was assessed with Cox models. Kaplan-Meier curves were estimated for patients with TILs ≥20% and TILs <20%. Median follow-up was 6.1 years.
RESULTS - Median TILs was 5% (Q1-Q3 1%-15%). Increased TILs were independently associated with better DDFS in multivariable model [hazard ratio (HR) 0.73, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.59-0.89, P = 0.006, for each 10% TILs increment]. Five years DDFS rates were 91.1% for patients with TILs <20% and 95.7% for patients with TILs ≥20% (P = 0.025). The association between 10% TILs increments and DDFS was significant for patients randomized to 9 weeks of trastuzumab (HR 0.60, 95% CI 0.41-0.88) but not for patients treated with 1 year of trastuzumab (HR 0.89, 95% CI 0.71-1.12; test for interaction P = 0.088). For patients with TILs <20%, the HR for the comparison between the short versus the long arm was 1.75 (95% CI 1.09-2.80, P=0.021); whereas, for patients with TILs ≥20% the HR for the comparison of short versus long arm was 0.23 (95% CI 0.05-1.09, P = 0.064), resulting in a significant interaction (P = 0.015).
CONCLUSIONS - TILs are an independent prognostic factor for HER2-positive early breast cancer patients treated with adjuvant chemotherapy and trastuzumab and may refine the ability to identify patients at low risk of relapse eligible for de-escalated adjuvant therapy.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society for Medical Oncology.