Indian Journal of Cancer
Home  ICS  Feedback Subscribe Top cited articles Login 
Users Online :1874
Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size
Navigate here
Resource links
   Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
   Article in PDF (538 KB)
   Citation Manager
   Access Statistics
   Reader Comments
   Email Alert *
   Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article
   Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded8    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal


  Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 57  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 348-350

An unusual durable response with palbociclib plus letrozole in hormone receptor positive metastatic breast cancer after multiple lines of therapy

1 Department of Medical Oncology, AIIMS, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Radiodiagnosis, AIIMS, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission20-Jan-2019
Date of Decision25-May-2019
Date of Acceptance27-May-2019
Date of Web Publication20-Jul-2020

Correspondence Address:
Atul Batra
Department of Medical Oncology, AIIMS, New Delhi
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijc.IJC_66_19

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Vanidassane I, Dhamija E, Naik SS, Batra A. An unusual durable response with palbociclib plus letrozole in hormone receptor positive metastatic breast cancer after multiple lines of therapy. Indian J Cancer 2020;57:348-50

How to cite this URL:
Vanidassane I, Dhamija E, Naik SS, Batra A. An unusual durable response with palbociclib plus letrozole in hormone receptor positive metastatic breast cancer after multiple lines of therapy. Indian J Cancer [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Oct 1];57:348-50. Available from:

Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is incurable, and current therapy focuses on disease control and prolongation of life.[1] Present treatment options in hormone receptor-positive and HER2 negative MBC include various endocrine therapies. The use of chemotherapy is being shifted to later lines of therapy. The various classes of drugs available for these patients are nonsteroidal and steroidal aromatase inhibitors such as anastrozole, letrozole, and exemestane; serum estrogen receptor modulators such as tamoxifen; estrogen receptor down-regulators such as fulvestrant, newer drugs including CDK 4/6 inhibitors such as palbociclib, and mTOR inhibitors such as everolimus.[2],[3],[4] The expanding armamentarium of drugs has led to newer combinations such as everolimus and exemestane, palbociclib and letrozole, or fulvestrant in the management of MBC, which have improved the survival of these patients.[5],[6],[7] The progression-free survival with subsequent lines of therapy decreases with further therapy and it is a challenge to achieve long-lasting response in heavily pretreated patients. We report a case of MBC who showed lasting response to the combination of palbociclib and letrozole as 6th line of therapy.

A 48-year-old premenopausal woman presented with left breast lump in 2006 and was diagnosed as invasive ductal carcinoma T2N0M0, stage IIA, estrogen receptor (ER), and progesterone receptor (PR) 60%, HER2 negative. She was treated with left-sided modified radical mastectomy, and received adjuvant 5-fluorouracil 500 mg/m2, epirubicin 75 mg/m2, and cyclophosphamide 500 mg/m2 (FEC) intravenously (IV) every 3 weeks for 6 cycles followed by adjuvant endocrine therapy with tamoxifen 20 mg per oral (PO) daily for 5 years. In December 2012, she developed a chest wall lesion, and imaging was suggestive of locoregional recurrence along with multiple bony metastases. A biopsy confirmed recurrence, and she was diagnosed as MBC ER/PR positive and HER2 negative. Because there was no visceral crisis, she was started on letrozole 2.5 mg PO continuously daily after confirming her postmenopausal status. On follow-up after 3 months, she developed cervical lymphadenopathy and new painful bone metastases and had clinical and radiological disease progression. In view of poor response to letrozole and painful bony lesions, she was started on capecitabine 1250 mg/m2 orally for day 1 to day 14 followed by 7 days rest period and docetaxel 75 mg/m2 on day 1 IV every 3 weeks. She achieved a partial response and became asymptomatic after 6 cycles of chemotherapy. Later, she was started on maintenance therapy with fulvestrant 500 mg intramuscularly (IM) on days 0, 14, and 28 followed by once in every 28 days and remained asymptomatic. After 2.5 years, she presented with cough. A contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CECT) of the thorax revealed bilateral lung metastases. Exemestane 25 mg PO plus everolimus 10 mg PO was initiated but everolimus had to be discontinued after 6 months owing to poor tolerance in spite of lowering the dose. After 8 months, in February 2017, the patient presented with worsening cough and dyspnea on exertion, and the imaging was suggestive of progressive lung metastases. She was then started on palbociclib 125 mg PO for 21 days followed by 7 day rest period and letrozole 2.5 mg PO once a day throughout the 28 days cycle. [Figure 1] depicts the treatment timeline of the patient.
Figure 1: Treatment timeline of the patient. MBC - metastatic breast cancer, FEC fluorouracil, epirubicin, cyclophosphamide

Click here to view

Her symptoms improved markedly and imaging was suggestive of stable disease as per the response evaluation criteria in solid tumors (RECIST). She continues to have stable disease after 22 months of palbociclib plus letrozole [Figure 2]. Throughout this period, she tolerated the treatment well without significant adverse effects.
Figure 2: Stable disease in a sequential scan (top row: at the time of starting palbociclib plus letrozole and bottom row: recent follow - up after 18 months). Axial CT images in soft tissue (a and b) and bone window (c and d) show lytic sclerotic changes involving an anterior aspect of 3rd, rib on the left side with associated mild soft tissue and also in the sternum. There is no significant interval change seen in the imaging findings of the two scans

Click here to view

This decade has witnessed landmark advances in the management of hormone receptor-positive MBC. These advances have prolonged the survival of these patients by years.[1] However, resistance to endocrine therapy is being witnessed much more commonly than before as these patients live longer. Subsequent management of these patients after endocrine resistance remains a challenge. Common resistance mechanisms described in the literature are loss of expression of ER receptor, post-translational modification, differential binding of ER receptor, ER mutations, cross talk with HER2 signaling, P13K/AKT/mTOR pathway activation, and NFkB signaling increasing cyclins, CDKs leading to tumor survival using PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway.[8]

CDKs are key regulators of progression of cell cycle; CDK 4 links with the cyclin D1 and phosphorylates retinoblastoma (Rb) protein allowing cell cycle progression. Blocking of CDK4/6 phosphorylation of Rb leads to G1 cell cycle arrest.[9] Three oral selective inhibitors of CDK4/6 are available palbociclib, abemaciclib, and ribociclib. Palbociclib plus letrozole was approved as the first line in hormone receptor-positive breast cancer after PALOMA-2 trail showed doubling in progression-free survival (PFS) when compared to letrozole alone group.[6] In PALOMA-3 study, palbociclib and fulvestrant was compared with fulvestrant alone and showed significant improvement in PFS (HR 0.46; 95% CI 0.36-0.59; P < 0.0001) irrespective of PIK3CA mutational status, the endocrine resistance, and hormone receptor expression level.[7] The combination is usually well tolerated without any major adverse effects. The common adverse events of this combination are neutropenia (66%), leukopenia (24%), anemia (5%), fatigue (2%), and febrile neutropenia (2%).[6] In a retrospective review of 53 patients, this combination in the second line setting reported 6.3 months and 6.4 months of median time to treatment failure and progression-free survival, respectively.[10]

This patient received palbociclib plus letrozole as 6th line therapy and continues to respond for more than 19 months with it. The overall survival since the diagnosis of metastatic disease is 6 years, and she continues to lead an active lifestyle. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first case report of a heavily treated hormone receptor positive MBC showing durable response with combination of palbociclib and letrozole beyond 2nd line setting.

To conclude, this case report supports the use of palbociclib with letrozole in postmenopausal hormone receptor-positive MBC patients who progressed on multiple therapies and did not receive this class of drug in frontline settings. In spite of limitations common to any anecdotal case, we believe that this case highlights palbociclib plus letrozole combination could achieve lasting control in heavily treated hormone receptor-positive MBC patients.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Chia SK, Speers CH, D'yachkova Y, Kang A, Malfair-Taylor S, Barnett J, et al. The impact of new chemotherapeutic and hormone agents on survival in a population-based cohort of women with metastatic breast cancer. Cancer 2007;110:973-9.  Back to cited text no. 1
Mauri D, Pavlidis N, Polyzos NP, Ioannidis JP. Survival with aromatase inhibitors and inactivators versus standard hormonal therapy in advanced breast cancer: Meta-analysis. J Natl Cancer Inst 2006;98:1285.  Back to cited text no. 2
Robertson JF, Bondarenko IM, Trishkina E, Dvorkin M, Panasci L, Manikhas A, et al. Fulvestrant 500 mg versus anastrozole 1 mg for hormone receptor-positive advanced breast cancer (FALCON): An international, randomised, double-blind, phase 3 trial. Lancet 2016;388:2997.  Back to cited text no. 3
Murphy CG. The role of CDK4/6 inhibitors in breast cancer. Curr Treat Options Oncol 2019;20:52.  Back to cited text no. 4
Piccart M, Hortobagyi GN, Campone M, Pritchard KI, Lebrun F, Ito Y, et al. Everolimusplusexemestaneforhormone-receptor-positive, humanepidermal growth factorreceptor-2-negativeadvancedbreast cancer: Overallsurvivalresultsfrom BOLERO-2. Ann Oncol 2014;25:2357-62.  Back to cited text no. 5
Finn RS, Martin M, Rugo HS, Jones S, Im SA, Gelmon K, et al. Palbociclib and letrozole in advanced breast cancer. N Engl J Med 2016;375:1925-36.  Back to cited text no. 6
Cristofanilli M, Turner NC, Bondarenko I, Ro J, Im SA, Masuda N, et al. Fulvestrant plus palbociclib versus fulvestrant plus placebo for treatment of hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer that progressed on previous endocrine therapy (PALOMA-3): Final analysis of the multicentre, double-blind, phase 3 randomised controlled trial. Lancet Oncol 2016;17:425-39.  Back to cited text no. 7
Mills JN, Rutkovsky AC, Giordano A. Mechanisms of resistance in estrogen receptor positive breast cancer: Overcoming resistance to tamoxifen/aromatase inhibitors. Curr Opin Pharmacol 2018;41:59-65.  Back to cited text no. 8
Scott SC, Lee SS, Abraham J. Mechanisms of therapeutic CDK4/6 inhibition in breast cancer. SeminOncol2017;44:385-94.  Back to cited text no. 9
Schickli MA, Berger MJ, Lustberg M, Palettas M, Vargo CA. Time to treatment failure of palbociclib and letrozole as second-line therapy or beyond in hormone receptor-positive advanced breast cancer. J Oncol Pharm Pract 2019;25:1374-80.  Back to cited text no. 10


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


Print this article  Email this article


  Site Map | What's new | Copyright and Disclaimer
  Online since 1st April '07
  2007 - Indian Journal of Cancer | Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow