A review of mechanisms of disease across PIK3CA-related disorders with vascular manifestations

Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2021 Jul 8;16(1):306. doi: 10.1186/s13023-021-01929-8.


Background: PIK3CA-related disorders include vascular malformations and overgrowth of various tissues that are caused by postzygotic, somatic variants in the gene encoding phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) catalytic subunit alpha. These mutations result in activation of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway. The goals of this review are to provide education on the underlying mechanism of disease for this group of rare conditions and to summarize recent advancements in the understanding of, as well as current and emerging treatment options for PIK3CA-related disorders.

Main body: PIK3CA-related disorders include PIK3CA-related overgrowth spectrum (PROS), PIK3CA-related vascular malformations, and PIK3CA-related nonvascular lesions. Somatic activating mutations (predominantly in hotspots in the helical and kinase domains of PIK3CA, but also in other domains), lead to hyperactivation of the PI3K signaling pathway, which results in abnormal tissue growth. Diagnosis is complicated by the variability and overlap in phenotypes associated with PIK3CA-related disorders and should be performed by clinicians with the required expertise along with coordinated care from a multidisciplinary team. Although tissue mosaicism presents challenges for confirmation of PIK3CA mutations, next-generation sequencing and tissue selection have improved detection. Clinical improvement, radiological response, and patient-reported outcomes are typically used to assess treatment response in clinical studies of patients with PIK3CA-related disorders, but objective assessment of treatment response is difficult using imaging (due to the heterogeneous nature of these disorders, superimposed upon patient growth and development). Despite their limitations, patient-reported outcome tools may be best suited to gauge patient improvement. New therapeutic options are needed to provide an alternative or supplement to standard approaches such as surgery and sclerotherapy. Currently, there are no systemic agents that have regulatory approval for these disorders, but the mTOR inhibitor sirolimus has been used for several years in clinical trials and off label to address symptoms. There are also other agents under investigation for PIK3CA-related disorders that act as inhibitors to target different components of the PI3K signaling pathway including AKT (miransertib) and PI3K alpha (alpelisib).

Conclusion: Management of patients with PIK3CA-related disorders requires a multidisciplinary approach. Further results from ongoing clinical studies of agents targeting the PI3K pathway are highly anticipated.

Keywords: Alpelisib; Miransertib; PI3K; PIK3CA; PROS; Sirolimus; Vascular malformation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / genetics
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Growth Disorders*
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases* / genetics
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases* / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • PIK3CA protein, human