Xgeva Generates Survival Benefit in Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer


"We now finally have evidence that bone-targeted treatment is not only successful in treating bony metastases and preventing treatment-induced bone loss," said Michael Gnant.

A follow-up analysis of the benefits of adding Xgeva (denosumab) to aromatase inhibitor (AI) therapy has found that the agent not only helps to prevent fractures, it reduces the risk of recurrence and death in postmenopausal women with hormone receptor (HR)-positive breast cancer.

In this phase 3 trial, a 19 percent relative survival improvement was seen among women who had Xgeva added to their AI therapy, suggesting that the agent should be recommended in this setting, regardless of the patient’s bone health status.

“We now finally have evidence that bone-targeted treatment is not only successful in treating bony metastases and preventing treatment-induced bone loss. It also reduces recurrence and improves survival, at least in postmenopausal breast cancer patients,” said Michael Gnant. Gnant presented findings from the ABCSG-18 trial during a press conference at the 2015 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, a gathering of over 7,500 oncologists and oncology professionals.

This prospective, double-blind trial enrolled 3,425 postmenopausal women at a median age of 64 years, who were receiving adjuvant AI therapy for their early, HR-positive breast cancer at 58 centers in Austria and Sweden between 2006 and 2013. Patients were randomized evenly to receive 60-mg Xgeva subcutaneously every six months or placebo.

Gnant, a professor of surgery at the Medical University of Vienna, previously presented data from the ABCSG-18 trial showing that twice-yearly, low-dose Xgeva reduced the number of clinical fractures by half, with 176 fractures reported in patients receiving placebo, but only 92 fractures observed in the Xgeva arm.2

“That’s quite a dramatic difference, and there was no measurable difference in toxicity between [Xgeva] and placebo,” noted Gnant. He said that in view of these positive results, an independent data monitoring committee recommended that all trial participants be given the option to cross over to the [Xgeva] arm after discussion with their treating physician. Because investigators also wanted to see if Xgeva would impact survival, they performed a time-driven analysis of disease-free survival (DFS) in September, before the study is unblinded next year, Gnant explained. For their analysis, the researchers defined a DFS event as “time to any evidence of local or distant metastases, contralateral breast cancer, secondary cancer, or death from any cause.”

More events occurred in the placebo arm than in the Xgeva arm, 203 versus 167, respectively, Gnant reported, noting that while this finding was of “borderline statistical significance” due to a low number of events, sensitivity analyses of the data indicate that the DFS difference estimate is a conservative one.

“In absolute figures, the benefit is about 1 percent after three years, 2 percent after five years, and 3 percent after seven years of follow up,” Gnant reported.

In an exploratory analysis to uncover any signals of which subgroups might benefit more from adjuvant Xgeva, Gnant said there is some indication that the benefits may be greater for those who start their treatment earlier, patients with larger tumors, those with ductal invasive histology, and patients whose tumors are HR-positive.

Specifically, in the group of patients whose tumors were larger than 2 cm (950 patients), Gnant noted, “the absolute difference goes to about 4 percent after three years, 7 percent at five years, and more than 10 percent at seven years — that’s quite a relevant difference.”

Gnant drew a comparison of Xgeva's efficacy versus bisphosphonate therapy, using data from a meta-analysis conducted by the Early Breast Cancer Trialists Cooperative Group (EBCTCG).3 He noted that the observed DFS benefit of adjuvant Xgeva in ABCSG-18 for postmenopausal women is similar to that seen with bisphosphonates as reported by the EBCTCG. In that trial, a 14 percent overall relative difference in recurrence was observed in 11,767 postmenopausal women who received bisphosphonates, and he added that a 3 percent recurrence benefit held up after 10 years. While Gnant cautioned that the comparison is an indirect one, “I believe it is fair to say that adjuvant [Xgeva] does at least as much as adjuvant bisphosphonates do.”

He reiterated that the agent has a proven track record of safety, with ABCSG-18 showing no difference with Xgeva in the occurrence of any-grade adverse events compared with placebo, and no confirmed cases of osteonecrosis of the jaw or atypical fractures.

Xgeva is also being evaluated in the ongoing D-CARE study examining the therapy as adjuvant treatment for women with high-risk early breast cancer receiving neoadjuvant or adjuvant therapy (NCT01077154).

Although the FDA has approved adjuvant Xgeva as a treatment to increase bone mass in patients on AI therapy who are at high risk for fracture, it’s typically used only for those with established osteoporosis. With these new data, Gnant said, Xgeva should be offered to all postmenopausal women with HR-positive breast cancer on AIs, regardless of their bone health status:

“When I see a new patient next week, I will start her on the two subcutaneous injections every six months for three years.”


  1. Gnant M, Pfeiler G, Dubsky PC, et al. The impact of adjuvant denosumab on disease-free survival: results from 3425 postmenopausal patients of the ABCSG-18 trial. Presented at: 2015 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; San Antonio, TX; December 8-12, 2015. Abstract S2-02.
  2. Gnant M, Pfeiler G, Dubsky PC, et al. Adjuvant denosumab in breast cancer (ABCSG-18): a multicenter, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2015;386(9992):433-443.
  3. Early Breast Cancer Trialists Cooperative Group. Adjuvant bisphosphonate treatment in early breast cancer: meta-analyses of individual patient data from randomized trials. Lancet. 2015;386(10001):1353-1361.
Related Videos
Image of a man with rectangular glasses and short dark hair.
Image of a woman with long dark hair.
Image of Kristen Dahlgren at Extraordinary Healer.
Image of a woman with short blonde hair wearing a white blazer.
Image of a woman with black hair.
Image of a woman with brown shoulder-length hair in front of a gray background that says CURE.
Sue Friedman in an interview with CURE
Catrina Crutcher in an interview with CURE