Importance Salvage chemotherapy for recurrent chest wall lesions in breast cancer results in response rates of 20% to 30%. Preclinical studies showed significant disease regression could be induced in murine chest wall mammary cancers with a topical toll-like receptor (TLR)-7 agonist, imiquimod.
Objective To evaluate the safety and objective response rate (ORR) of imiquimod in combination with systemic albumin bound paclitaxel in treatment-refractory breast cancer of the chest wall.
Design, Setting, and Particpants A single arm phase 2 clinical trial of 15 patients with breast cancer previously treated in an academic medical center setting between 2009 and 2012 for chest wall disease that had recurred.
Interventions Imiquimod cream, 5%, was applied topically to a designated target lesion once per day for 4 consecutive days on days 1 through 4, 8 through 11, 15 through 18, and 22 through 25 of a 28-day cycle, for 12 weeks. Albumin bound paclitaxel, 100 mg/m2, was given intravenously on days 1, 8, and 15, and repeated every 28 days over the 12-week period.
Main Outcomes and Measures The primary endpoint was safety and ORR. Secondary endpoints included the generation of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and modulation of immune cell populations.
Results The median age at baseline of the 15 study participants was 54 years (range, 46-92 years). Fourteen patients were evaluable. Combination therapy was associated with low-grade toxic effects. Of 358 adverse events 330 (92%) were grades 1 and 2. Five (36%) patients achieved a compete response and another 5 (36%) were partial responders for an overall response rate of 72% (10 of 14). The response duration was limited. Pretreatment levels of programmed death-1 (PD-1)+ peripheral blood T cells (PD-1+ cluster of differentiation [CD]4+; 95% CI, 2.68-6.63; P < .001 and PD-1+CD8+; 95% CI, 1.13-8.35; P = .01) and monocytic myeloid derived suppressor cells (mMDSC) (95% CI, 3.62-12.74; P = .001) greater than controls predicted suboptimal clinical response.
Conclusions and Relevance Chemoimmunomodulation with a TLR-7 agonist and albumin bound paclitaxel is effective in inducing disease regression in treatment-refractory breast cancer chest wall metastases but responses are short-lived. Preexisting levels of cells indicating either T-cell exhaustion or systemic immunosuppression may be markers of selection for responsive patients.