Genetic alterations in PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase) signalling are common in cancer and include deletions in PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10), amplifications of PIK3CA and mutations in two distinct regions of the PIK3CA gene. This suggests drugs targeting PI3K, and p110α in particular, might be useful in treating cancers. Broad-spectrum inhibition of PI3K is effective in preventing growth factor signalling and tumour growth, but suitable inhibitors of p110α have not been available to study the effects of inhibiting this isoform alone. In the present study we characterize a novel small molecule, A66, showing the S-enantiomer to be a highly specific and selective p110α inhibitor. Using molecular modelling and biochemical studies, we explain the basis of this selectivity. Using a panel of isoform-selective inhibitors, we show that insulin signalling to Akt/PKB (protein kinase B) is attenuated by the additive effects of inhibiting p110α/p110β/p110δ in all cell lines tested. However, inhibition of p110α alone was sufficient to block insulin signalling to Akt/PKB in certain cell lines. The responsive cell lines all harboured H1047R mutations in PIK3CA and have high levels of p110α and class-Ia PI3K activity. This may explain the increased sensitivity of these cells to p110α inhibitors. We assessed the activation of Akt/PKB and tumour growth in xenograft models and found that tumours derived from two of the responsive cell lines were also responsive to A66 in vivo. These results show that inhibition of p110α alone has the potential to block growth factor signalling and reduce growth in a subset of tumours.
© 2011 The Author(s)