Metastatic sarcomas are commonly resistant to chemotherapy. The serine/threonine kinase, mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), is a protein kinase of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT signaling pathway thought to have a key role in controlling cancer growth and thus is an important target for cancer therapy. Several inhibitors of mTOR are in clinical trials, including AP23573, which is being tested on metastatic sarcomas and other tumors. We hypothesized that a marker for the activity of mTOR, phosphorylated S6 ribosomal protein, would be predictive of clinical response to the drug, that is, high tumor expression would signify better response than low expression. This was a blinded study. Of 26 patients treated, 20 remained on study, with available paraffin blocks. Fourteen patients received AP23573 alone and six patients received AP23573 in combination with adriamycin. An antibody to the phosphorylated S6 ribosomal protein was used to stain the tumors, all high-grade sarcomas. Pretreatment biopsy or resection material was tested: the original tumor (n=6) or tumor recurrence/metastasis (n=14); either of these may have been after treatment with other agents. Staining was scored for both quantity/percentage of tumor cells and intensity. Scoring was performed without knowledge of tumor response. Staining quantity could be categorized into two natural groups: high expressors (> or =20% of tumor cells, 11 cases) and low expressors (0-10% of tumor cells, 9 cases). The high-expression group had eight stable and three progressive cases (73% stable disease); the low-expression group had three stable and six progressive cases (67% progressive disease). Chi-square analysis showed statistical significance (P< or =0.05) at this initial cutoff (10%) selected blindly. The level of phosphorylated S6 ribosomal protein expression was predictive of early tumor response to the mTOR inhibitor, suggesting that this is a promising new predictive sarcoma marker for targeted mTOR inhibitor therapy.