PI3Kα inhibitors have shown clinical activity in PIK3CA-mutated estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) patients with breast cancer. Using whole genome CRISPR/Cas9 sgRNA knockout screens, we identified and validated several negative regulators of mTORC1 whose loss confers resistance to PI3Kα inhibition. Among the top candidates were TSC1, TSC2, TBC1D7, AKT1S1, STK11, MARK2, PDE7A, DEPDC5, NPRL2, NPRL3, C12orf66, SZT2, and ITFG2. Loss of these genes invariably results in sustained mTOR signaling under pharmacologic inhibition of the PI3K-AKT pathway. Moreover, resistance could be prevented or overcome by mTOR inhibition, confirming the causative role of sustained mTOR activity in limiting the sensitivity to PI3Kα inhibition. Cumulatively, genomic alterations affecting these genes are identified in about 15% of PIK3CA-mutated breast tumors and appear to be mutually exclusive. This study improves our understanding of the role of mTOR signaling restoration in leading to resistance to PI3Kα inhibition and proposes therapeutic strategies to prevent or revert this resistance. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings show that genetic lesions of multiple negative regulators of mTORC1 could limit the efficacy of PI3Kα inhibitors in breast cancer, which may guide patient selection strategies for future clinical trials.
©2021 American Association for Cancer Research.