Introduction: Inhibitors of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase/protein kinase B/mammalian target of rapamycin (PI3K/AKT/mTOR) pathway can overcome endocrine resistance in estrogen receptor (ER) α-positive breast cancer, but companion diagnostics indicating PI3K/AKT/mTOR activation and consequently endocrine resistance are lacking. PIK3CA mutations frequently occur in ERα-positive breast cancer and result in PI3K/AKT/mTOR activation in vitro. Nevertheless, the prognostic and treatment-predictive value of these mutations in ERα-positive breast cancer is contradictive. We tested the clinical validity of PIK3CA mutations and other canonic pathway drivers to predict intrinsic resistance to adjuvant tamoxifen. In addition, we tested the association between these drivers and downstream activated proteins.
Methods: Primary tumors from 563 ERα-positive postmenopausal patients, randomized between adjuvant tamoxifen (1 to 3 years) versus observation were recollected. PIK3CA hotspot mutations in exon 9 and exon 20 were assessed with Sequenom Mass Spectometry. Immunohistochemistry was performed for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN), and insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R). We tested the association between these molecular alterations and downstream activated proteins (like phospho-protein kinase B (p-AKT), phospho-mammalian target of rapamycin (p-mTOR), p-ERK1/2, and p-p70S6K). Recurrence-free interval improvement with tamoxifen versus control was assessed according to the presence or absence of canonic pathway drivers, by using Cox proportional hazard models, including a test for interaction.
Results: PIK3CA mutations (both exon 9 and exon 20) were associated with low tumor grade. An enrichment of PIK3CA exon 20 mutations was observed in progesterone receptor- positive tumors. PIK3CA exon 20 mutations were not associated with downstream-activated proteins. No significant interaction between PIK3CA mutations or any of the other canonic pathway drivers and tamoxifen-treatment benefit was found.
Conclusion: PIK3CA mutations do not have clinical validity to predict intrinsic resistance to adjuvant tamoxifen and may therefore be unsuitable as companion diagnostic for PI3K/AKT/mTOR inhibitors in ERα- positive, postmenopausal, early breast cancer patients.