PURPOSE: neoMONARCH assessed the biological effects of abemaciclib in combination with anastrozole in the neoadjuvant setting.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Postmenopausal women with stage I-IIIB HR+/HER2- breast cancer were randomized to a 2-week lead-in of abemaciclib, anastrozole, or abemaciclib plus anastrozole followed by 14 weeks of the combination. The primary objective evaluated change in Ki67 from baseline to 2 weeks of treatment. Additional objectives included clinical, radiologic, and pathologic responses, safety, as well as gene expression changes related to cell proliferation and immune response.
RESULTS: Abemaciclib, alone or in combination with anastrozole, achieved a significant decrease in Ki67 expression and led to potent cell-cycle arrest after 2 weeks of treatment compared with anastrozole alone. More patients in the abemaciclib-containing arms versus anastrozole alone achieved complete cell-cycle arrest (58%/68% vs. 14%, P < 0.001). At the end of treatment, following 2 weeks lead-in and 14 weeks of combination therapy, 46% of intent-to-treat patients achieved a radiologic response, with pathologic complete response observed in 4%. The most common all-grade adverse events were diarrhea (62%), constipation (44%), and nausea (42%). Abemaciclib, anastrozole, and the combination inhibited cell-cycle processes and estrogen signaling; however, combination therapy resulted in increased cytokine signaling and adaptive immune response indicative of enhanced antigen presentation and activated T-cell phenotypes.
CONCLUSIONS: Abemaciclib plus anastrozole demonstrated biological and clinical activity with generally manageable toxicities in patients with HR+/HER2- early breast cancer. Abemaciclib led to potent cell-cycle arrest, and in combination with anastrozole, enhanced immune activation.