Neoadjuvant endocrine therapy: Patient selection, treatment duration and surrogate endpoints Academic Article uri icon


  • Neoadjuvant endocrine treatment has become of increasing interest for downstaging primary ER+ breast cancers as it has become clear that the pathologic complete response rate of luminal tumours to chemotherapy is much lower than that of non-luminal and differs little from that to endocrine therapy. There is much more experience in postmenopausal than premenopausal women. Aromatase inhibitors are generally the agent of choice. Responses are lower in those with the low levels of ER. While duration of endocrine treatment in clinical trials has usually been standardized at around three to four months it is clear that volume reductions continue to occur beyond that time in a large proportion of cases and routine clinical practice is often to treat to maximum response. This relatively slow emergence of downstaging relates to the absence of any increase in apoptosis with endocrine therapy and dependence of responses on the antiproliferative effects of oestrogen withdrawal: apoptosis occurs but at a slightly lower rate such that cell loss is attritional. The dependence of responses on the reduced proliferation underpins the value of Ki67 as an intermediate end-point for treatment benefit with multiple studies having found that relative effects on proliferation by different drugs in neoadjuvant trials match their relative impact on recurrence. While change in Ki67 is now accepted as a validated endpoint for comparing endocrine agents in the neoadjuvant scenario, on-treatment levels of Ki67 are related to long-term prognosis more closely than pretreatment Ki67. The Preoperative Endocrine Prognostic Index (PEPI) that combines residual Ki67 score with measures of on-treatment ER and other clinicopathologic factors has also found application in clinical trials. The potential to make longitudinal assessments of both clinical and biomarker responses has encouraged the development of novel clinical trial designs for assessing the impact of agents that aim to enhance response beyond that of endocrine agents alone. Such strategies include the early measurement of residual Ki67 levels after challenge with an endocrine agent alone and evaluation of the impact of the added agent on Ki67 or other agent-specific end-points.

publication date

  • 2015