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CDK4/6 Inhibitors Expand the Therapeutic Options in Breast Cancer: Palbociclib, Ribociclib and Abemaciclib

  • Tanja K. EggersmannEmail author
  • Tom Degenhardt
  • Oleg Gluz
  • Rachel Wuerstlein
  • Nadia Harbeck
Review Article


The majority of patients with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) have hormone receptor-positive HER2-negative disease. For this subgroup, endocrine therapy is the key therapeutic option. Recently, therapeutic options have been expanded by introduction of the inhibitors of cyclin-dependent kinases 4/6 (CDK4/6i). Three compounds, palbociclib, ribociclib, and abemaciclib, have already been approved by the FDA for use together with endocrine therapy such as aromatase inhibitors (AIs) or fulvestrant; abemaciclib is also approved as a single agent. In the first-line setting, all three agents—together with an AI—substantially prolonged progression-free survival with a consistent hazard ratio of around 0.5 in all phase III trials. The data for second-line settings and beyond is also quite consistent, with again a substantial prolongation of progression-free survival demonstrated for fulvestrant together with palbociclib, ribociclib, or abemaciclib. Treatment with CDK4/6i is well tolerated and side effects are manageable. With palbociclib and ribociclib, hematological toxicities are most frequent. Abemaciclib has a lower incidence of neutropenia and a much greater incidence of all grades of diarrhea compared with other CDK4/6i, making diarrhea the key toxicity for abemaciclib. Patient quality of life is maintained under therapy and, particularly in later line settings, deterioration of quality of life is slowed down and symptoms such as pain are better controlled by CDK4/6i. Their consistent and clinically relevant efficacy makes these drugs an important improvement in our armamentarium against MBC and, potentially, ideal candidates in early breast cancer (EBC). This review summarizes the available clinical data for CDK4/6i and current research activities, particularly in EBC.


Compliance with Ethical Standards


The preparation of this review was not funded.

Conflicts of interests

TKE received honoraria for lectures and/or consulting from Roche, Novartis, and Pfizer. TD received honoraria for lectures and/or consulting from Roche, Pfizer, Palleos, and GSM. OG received honoraria for lectures and/or consulting from Pfizer and Novartis. NH and RW received honoraria for lectures and/or consulting from Lilly, Novartis, and Pfizer.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tanja K. Eggersmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tom Degenhardt
    • 1
  • Oleg Gluz
    • 2
  • Rachel Wuerstlein
    • 1
    • 2
  • Nadia Harbeck
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of OB&GYN, Breast CenterUniversity of Munich (LMU)MunichGermany
  2. 2.Westdeutsche StudiengruppeMoenchengladbachGermany

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