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BACKGROUND: Chemotherapeutic agents such as anthracyclines and taxanes are commonly used in the neoadjuvant setting. Bevacizumab is an antibody which binds to vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) and inhibits its receptor interaction, thus obstructing the formation of new blood vessels. METHODS: A phase II randomized clinical trial of 123 patients with Her2-negative breast cancer was conducted, with patients treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy (fluorouracil (5FU)/epirubicin/cyclophosphamide (FEC) and taxane), with or without bevacizumab. Serial biopsies were obtained at time of diagnosis, after 12 weeks of treatment with FEC ± bevacizumab, and after 25 weeks of treatment with taxane ± bevacizumab. A time course study was designed to investigate the genomic landscape at the three time points when tumor DNA alterations, tumor percentage, genomic instability, and tumor clonality were assessed. Substantial differences were observed with some tumors changing mainly between diagnosis and at 12 weeks, others between 12 and 25 weeks, and still others changing in both time periods. RESULTS: In both treatment arms, good responders (GR) and non-responders (NR) displayed significant difference in genomic instability index (GII) at time of diagnosis. In the combination arm, copy number alterations at 25 loci at the time of diagnosis were significantly different between the GR and NR. An inverse aberration pattern was also observed between the two extreme response groups at 6p22-p12 for patients in the combination arm. Signs of subclonal reduction were observed, with some aberrations disappearing and others being retained during treatment. Increase in subclonal amplification was observed at 6p21.1, a locus which contains the VEGFA gene for the protein which are targeted by the study drug bevacizumab. Of the 13 pre-treatment samples that had a gain at VEGFA, 12 were responders. Significant decrease of frequency of subclones carrying gains at 17q21.32-q22 was observed at 12 weeks, with the peak occurring at TMEM100, an ALK1 receptor signaling-dependent gene essential for vasculogenesis. This implies that cells bearing amplifications of VEGFA and TMEM100 are particularly sensitive to this treatment regime. CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, these results suggest that heterogeneity and subclonal architecture influence the response to targeted treatment in combination with chemotherapy, with possible implications for clinical decision-making and monitoring of treatment efficacy. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT00773695 . Registered 15 October 2008.

Original publication




Journal article


Genome Med

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Angiogenesis, Breast cancer, Chemotherapy, Clonal and subclonal aberrations, Targeted treatment, Tumor heterogeneity