Objectives: Uterine serous carcinoma (USC) is an aggressive endometrial cancer associated with poor prognosis despite comprehensive surgical staging and adjuvant chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Biologic targets have yet to be fully explored in this disease and research on such targets could lead to clinical trials utilizing a new class of therapeutics. This study sought to evaluate primary USC tumors for molecular alterations in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and the recently characterized oncogene PIK3CA, which encodes the catalytic p110-alpha subunit of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and thus activates the AKT-mTOR oncogenic pathway.
Methods: Paraffin-embedded archival tissue of 45 primary USC tumors was utilized in this study. Immunohistochemical analysis of EGFR was performed and cases given a score of 0 to 12 calculated as the product of staining intensity (0 to 3+) and the percentage of positively stained cells (0-4), with 1=1-25%, 2=26-50%, 3=51-75%, and 4=76-100%. For mutational analysis, neoplastic tissue was microdissected and DNA was extracted with phenol-chloroform. Exons 18 through 21 of EGFR and exons 9 and 20 of PIK3CA, the most commonly mutated exons of these genes, were amplified and directly sequenced.
Results: When EGFR was evaluated, moderate or strong EGFR membranous staining was observed in 25/45 (56%) USC cases. Thus, a mutational analysis was performed on 35 cases, including all cases with moderate and strong EGFR staining. No mutations were identified in EGFR. In contrast, PIK3CA mutations were confirmed in 5/34 (15%) of USC cases. Four cases were mutated in exon 20 and one case was mutated in exon 9.
Conclusions: Since optimal treatment of uterine serous carcinoma remains unknown, novel therapeutic approaches need to be actively pursued. In the current study of primary USC tumors, oncogenic mutations of the PIK3CA gene were seen in 15% of USC cases. This represents the first report of this gene mutation in USC. In addition, EGFR stained positively in the majority of cases, suggesting a possible target protein. These findings warrant further investigation and suggest a potential role for therapeutic agents targeting the PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway, such as rapamycin, as well as possible targets of EGFR in the treatment of uterine serous carcinoma.