Molecular mechanisms of lapatinib resistance in breast cancer are not well understood. The aim of this study was to correlate expression of selected proteins involved in ErbB family signaling pathways with clinical efficacy of lapatinib. Study group included 270 HER2-positive advanced breast cancer patients treated with lapatinib and capecitabine. Immunohistochemical expression of phosphorylated adenosine monophosphate-activated protein (p-AMPK), mitogen-activated protein kinase (p-MAPK), phospho (p)-p70S6K, cyclin E, phosphatase and tensin homolog were analyzed in primary breast cancer samples. The best discriminative value for progression-free survival (PFS) was established for each biomarker and subjected to multivariate analysis. At least one biomarker was determined in 199 patients. Expression of p-p70S6K was independently associated with longer (HR 0.45; 95% CI: 0.25-0.81; p = 0.009), and cyclin E with shorter PFS (HR 1.83; 95% CI: 1.06-3.14; p = 0.029). Expression of p-MAPK (HR 1.61; 95% CI 1.13-2.29; p = 0.009) and cyclin E (HR 2.99; 95% CI: 1.29-6.94; p = 0.011) was correlated with shorter, and expression of estrogen receptor (HR 0.65; 95% CI 0.43-0.98; p = 0.041) with longer overall survival. Expression of p-AMPK negatively impacted response to treatment (HR 3.31; 95% CI 1.48-7.44; p = 0.004) and disease control (HR 3.07; 95% CI 1.25-7.58; p = 0.015).
In conclusion: the efficacy of lapatinib seems to be associated with the activity of downstream signaling pathways - AMPK/mTOR and Ras/Raf/MAPK. Further research is warranted to assess the clinical utility of these data and to determine a potential role of combining lapatinib with MAPK pathway inhibitors.
Keywords: breast cancer; epidermal growth factor receptor type 2; lapatinib; mTOR; p-MAPK.