Concurrent versus sequential use of trastuzumab and chemotherapy in early HER2+ breast cancer

Gwen M.H.E. Dackus, Katarzyna Jóźwiak, Elsken van der Wall, Paul J. van Diest, Michael Hauptmann, Sabine Siesling, Gabe S. Sonke, Sabine C. Linn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Purpose: The addition of trastuzumab to adjuvant chemotherapy has improved the outcome of human epidermal growth-factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive breast cancer. Uncertainty remains about the optimal timing of trastuzumab treatment. Therefore, we compared long-term outcome after concurrent versus sequential treatment, in a population-based setting, using data from the nationwide Netherlands Cancer Registry. Methods: We identified 1843 women diagnosed in The Netherlands from January 1st 2005 until January 1st 2008 with primary, HER2-positive, T1-4NanyM0 breast cancer who received adjuvant chemotherapy and trastuzumab. Kaplan–Meier survival estimates and Cox regression were used to compare recurrence-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS) between women who received trastuzumab concurrently with versus sequentially after chemotherapy. Hazard ratios (HR) were adjusted for age, year of diagnosis, grade, pathological T-stage, number of positive lymph nodes, ER-status, PR-status, socio-economic status, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy, ovarian ablation, and type of chemotherapy. Results: After a median follow-up of 8.2 years, RFS events had occurred in 224 out of 1235 (18.1%) concurrently treated women and 129 out of 608 (21.2%) sequentially treated women (adjusted-HR 0.91; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.67–1.24; P = 0.580). Deaths occurred in 182/1235 (14.7%) concurrently treated women and 104/608 (17.1%) sequentially treated women (adjusted-HR 0.92; 95% CI 0.65–1.29; P = 0.635). Conclusions: The results of this population-based study are consistent with earlier randomized trials, demonstrating a non-significant difference in outcome for concurrently treated women compared to those who were treated sequentially, suggesting both options are justified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)817-830
Number of pages14
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Adjuvant treatment
  • Breast cancer
  • Concurrent
  • Human epidermal growth-factor receptor 2
  • Sequential
  • Trastuzumab


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