Landmark trials in the medical oncology management of metastatic breast cancer

Pei Lu, Cesar A. Santa-Maria, Tarah J. Ballinger, Jennifer Y. Sheng

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Significant advances in the management of metastatic breast cancer (MBC) have guided more personalized treatment according to disease biology and led to improved survival outcomes and quality of life for patients. In this review, we discuss landmark clinical trials in medical oncology that have shaped the current standard of care for MBC. Combinations of endocrine therapy with cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6 inhibitors have led to substantial improvements in overall survival, thus becoming standard first-line treatment for patients with HR-positive MBC. Inhibition of the PI3K and mTOR pathway is another promising strategy to overcome resistance to endocrine therapy. HER2-targeted therapies have also evolved with the addition of pertuzumab to trastuzumab plus a taxane demonstrating remarkable overall survival advantage in patient with HER2-positive MBC. In second or later line therapies, novel anti-HER2 antibody-drug conjugates and TKIs have durable antitumor activity, survival benefit, and encouraging efficacy in the subgroup of patients with brain metastases. Triple negative breast cancer remains the most challenging subtype due to lack of druggable targets. Immunotherapy for patients with PDL-1 expression on tumor infiltrating immune cells and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors for those with germline BRCA1/2 mutations are the latest approved targeted strategies in this population. Numerous obstacles still exist in treating MBC, especially for patients whose disease develops resistance to available agents. Future research is eagerly awaited to address the optimal sequence or combination of therapies and to identify better biomarkers to guide precision medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-258
Number of pages13
JournalSeminars in oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Clinical trials
  • HER-2
  • Hormone receptor
  • Metastatic breast cancer
  • Triple negative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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