Targeting the PI3K/AKT/mTOR Pathway for the Treatment of Mesenchymal Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Evidence From a Phase 1 Trial of mTOR Inhibition in Combination With Liposomal Doxorubicin and Bevacizumab

JAMA Oncol. 2017 Apr 1;3(4):509-515. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.5281.


Importance: Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) classified by transcriptional profiling as the mesenchymal subtype frequently harbors aberrations in the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway, raising the possibility of targeting this pathway to enhance chemotherapy response. Up to 30% of mesenchymal TNBC can be classified histologically as metaplastic breast cancer, a chemorefractory group of tumors with a mixture of epithelial and mesenchymal components identifiable by light microscopy. While assays to identify mesenchymal TNBC are under development, metaplastic breast cancer serves as a clinically identifiable surrogate to evaluate potential regimens for mesenchymal TNBC.

Objective: To assess safety and efficacy of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibition in combination with liposomal doxorubicin and bevacizumab in patients with advanced metaplastic TNBC.

Design, setting, and participants: Phase 1 study with dose escalation and dose expansion at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center of patients with advanced metaplastic TNBC. Patients were enrolled from April 16, 2009, to November 4, 2014, and followed for outcomes with a cutoff date of November 1, 2015, for data analysis.

Interventions: Liposomal doxorubicin, bevacizumab, and the mTOR inhibitors temsirolimus or everolimus using 21-day cycles.

Main outcomes and measures: Safety and response. When available, archived tissue was evaluated for aberrations in the PI3K pathway.

Results: Fifty-two women with metaplastic TNBC (median age, 58 years; range, 37-79 years) were treated with liposomal doxorubicin, bevacizumab, and temsirolimus (DAT) (N = 39) or liposomal doxorubicin, bevacizumab, and everolimus (DAE) (N = 13). The objective response rate was 21% (complete response = 4 [8%]; partial response = 7 [13%]) and 10 (19%) patients had stable disease for at least 6 months, for a clinical benefit rate of 40%. Tissue was available for testing in 43 patients, and 32 (74%) had a PI3K pathway aberration. Presence of PI3K pathway aberration was associated with a significant improvement in objective response rate (31% vs 0%; P = .04) but not clinical benefit rate (44% vs 45%; P > .99).

Conclusions and relevance: Using metaplastic TNBC as a surrogate for mesenchymal TNBC, DAT and DAE had notable activity in mesenchymal TNBC. Objective response was limited to patients with PI3K pathway aberration. A randomized trial should be performed to test DAT and DAE for metaplastic TNBC, as well as nonmetaplastic, mesenchymal TNBC, especially when PI3K pathway aberrations are identified.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Bevacizumab / administration & dosage*
  • Bevacizumab / adverse effects
  • Doxorubicin / administration & dosage
  • Doxorubicin / adverse effects
  • Doxorubicin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Elafin / metabolism
  • Everolimus / administration & dosage
  • Everolimus / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Middle Aged
  • Polyethylene Glycols / administration & dosage
  • Polyethylene Glycols / adverse effects
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Sirolimus / administration & dosage
  • Sirolimus / adverse effects
  • Sirolimus / analogs & derivatives
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / pathology


  • Elafin
  • PI3 protein, human
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • liposomal doxorubicin
  • Bevacizumab
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • temsirolimus
  • Doxorubicin
  • Everolimus
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Sirolimus