Inactivating NF1 Mutations Are Enriched in Advanced Breast Cancer and Contribute to Endocrine Therapy Resistance

Clin Cancer Res. 2020 Feb 1;26(3):608-622. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-18-4044. Epub 2019 Oct 7.


Purpose: Advanced breast cancer (ABC) has not been subjected to the same degree of molecular scrutiny as early primary cancer. Breast cancer evolves with time and under the selective pressure of treatment, with the potential to acquire mutations with resistance to treatment and disease progression. To identify potentially targetable mutations in advanced breast cancer, we performed prospective molecular characterization of a cohort of patients with ABC.

Experimental design: Biopsies from patients with advanced breast cancer were sequenced with a 41 genes targeted panel in the ABC Biopsy (ABC-Bio) study. Blood samples were collected at disease progression for circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) analysis, along with matched primary tumor to assess for acquisition in ABC in a subset of patients.

Results: We sequenced 210 ABC samples, demonstrating enrichment compared with primary disease for potentially targetable mutations in HER2 (in 6.19% of samples), AKT1 (7.14%), and NF1 (8.10%). Of these enriched mutations, we show that NF1 mutations were frequently acquired in ABC, not present in the original primary disease. In ER-positive cancer cell line models, loss of NF1 resulted in endocrine therapy resistance, through both ER-dependent and -independent mechanisms. NF1 loss promoted ER-independent cyclin D1 expression, which could be therapeutically targeted with CDK4/6 inhibitors in vitro. Patients with NF1 mutations detected in baseline circulating tumor DNA had a good outcome on the CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib and fulvestrant.

Conclusions: Our research identifies multiple therapeutic opportunities for advanced breast cancer and identifies the previously underappreciated acquisition of NF1 mutations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cyclin D1 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cyclin D1 / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Female
  • Fulvestrant / administration & dosage
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation*
  • Neurofibromin 1 / genetics*
  • Piperazines / administration & dosage
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pyridines / administration & dosage
  • Treatment Outcome


  • CCND1 protein, human
  • NF1 protein, human
  • Neurofibromin 1
  • Piperazines
  • Pyridines
  • Cyclin D1
  • Fulvestrant
  • palbociclib