CDK 4/6 inhibitors are associated with a high incidence of thrombotic events in women with breast cancer in real-world practice

Malinda T. West, Claire E. Smith, Andy Kaempf, Tia C.L. Kohs, Ramin Amirsoltani, Jessica Ribkoff, Josh Lee Choung, Alison Palumbo, Zahi Mitri, Joseph J. Shatzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose: Cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) 4/6 inhibitors are integral treatment for advanced hormone receptor positive breast cancer; however, venous thromboembolic events (VTE) occurred in 1%-5% of clinical trial patients. Thrombosis rates in the real-world setting remain unclear. We aimed to define the rate of thromboembolic events, risk factors for thrombosis on CDK 4/6 inhibitors and evaluate the Khorana VTE risk score as a predictive tool for VTE in patients on CDK 4/6 therapy. Methods: Multicenter retrospective analysis of adult breast cancer patients prescribed palbociclib, ribociclib, or abemaciclib. The primary endpoint was thrombosis during treatment or within 30 days of CDK inhibitor discontinuation. Cox regression was used to model time-to-thrombosis, starting from a patient's initiation of CDK 4/6 therapy. The extended Kaplan-Meier method and Cox modeling were used to assess the effect of time-varying thrombosis status on overall survival. Results: Two hundred and sixty-six patients were included (89% on palbociclib, 14% on abemaciclib, 7% on ribociclib). Twenty-nine thrombotic events occurred in 26 (9.8%) women. Of these events, 72% were venous and 34% were arterial. The 1-year incidence of thrombosis was 10.4% overall, 10.9% on palbociclib, 8.3% on ribociclib, and 4.8% on abemaciclib. Hemoglobin less than 10 g/dL was a statistically significant predictor of thrombosis (HR 3.53, P:.014). Khorana score ranged from 0-3, with the majority between 0 and 1 and was not predictive of VTE. Thrombosis was associated with reduced overall survival (HR 1.28, P:.128, median 7.3 months) compared to not having a CDK-associated clot (median 35.7 months). Discussion: VTE in our analysis is higher than reported in clinical trials and arterial thrombosis comprised over one-third of events. The highest incidence was with palbociclib, followed by ribociclib. Khorana score did not predict VTE risk. Larger, real-world studies are needed. The role for prophylactic anticoagulation is yet to be defined in this patient population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)634-642
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Haematology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • CDK inhibitor
  • arterial
  • breast cancer
  • thrombosis
  • venous

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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