Clinical trials have demonstrated the efficacy of combining phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitors with endocrine therapies in hormone therapy-refractory breast cancer. However, biomarkers of PI3K pathway dependence in ER+ breast cancer have not been fully established. Hotspot mutations in the alpha isoform of PI3K (PIK3CA) are frequent in ER+ disease and may identify tumors that respond to PI3K inhibitors. It is unclear whether PIK3CA mutations are the only biomarker to suggest pathway dependence and response to therapy. We performed correlative molecular characterization of primary and metastatic tissue from patients enrolled in a phase Ib study combining buparlisib (NVP-BKM-120), a pan-PI3K inhibitor, with letrozole in ER+, human epidermal growth factor-2 (HER2)-negative, metastatic breast cancer. Activating mutations in PIK3CA and inactivating MAP3K1 mutations marked tumors from patients with clinical benefit (≥6 months of stable disease). Patients harboring mutations in both genes exhibited the greatest likelihood of clinical benefit. In ER+ breast cancer cell lines, siRNA-mediated knockdown of MAP3K1 did not affect the response to buparlisib. In a subset of patients treated with buparlisib or the PI3Kα inhibitor alpelisib each with letrozole where PAM50 analysis was performed, nearly all tumors from patients with clinical benefit had a luminal A subtype. Mutations in MAP3K1 in ER+ breast cancer may be associated with clinical benefit from combined inhibition of PI3K and ER, but we could not ascribe direct biological function therein, suggesting they may be a surrogate for luminal A status. We posit that luminal A tumors may be a target population for this therapeutic combination.
Keywords: Cancer genomics; Tumour biomarkers.